Columbus Crew SC midfielder Lucas Zelarayan has been named the 2020 MLS Newcomer of the Year, the league announced Friday. The award caps an impressive first season in the league, with the Argentinian playmaker instrumental in the Crew's table-topping form early in the season.
Zelarayan, 28, was signed via transfer from Tigres UANL in December 2019 and made an instant impact for the Crew, scoring in his debut. He would go on to finish the season with six goals and four assists across 16 appearances (12 starts), including an AT&T Goal of the Year candidate free kick in the MLS is Back Tournament.
"It’s a great feeling to win this award," Zelarayan told members of the media after he was officially named Newcomer of the Year. "I just hope it’s the first of many awards to come. It’s a nice way to finish the year."
Zelarayan's first season in MLS came with the task of adjusting to a more physical style of play compared to Liga MX, which he noted was the biggest difference in style of play between the two leagues.
"The physical part was probably the biggest difference," he said. "I think that’s something that is very specific to this league. I think when you prepare here, you focus a lot on the physical part and that’s something I have to get used to."
The Crew also happily greeted the news, noting Zelarayan's award came during a year where he was not adjusting to a new style of play, but a new country during a pandemic.
"We are extremely proud of Lucas’ performance in his first season with the Club and are glad to see his efforts earn him the recognition he deserves,” said Crew President and General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko said in a team release. “From the moment he chose Columbus and this Club, Lucas has been committed to elevating his game and his teammates around him. It is never easy to arrive to a new league, let alone in a year that was heavily impacted by factors beyond our control, but Lucas has shown his desire to stand out from the very first day he arrived in Central Ohio."
Zelarayan beat out several other impressive newcomers for the award: Robert Beric (Chicago Fire FC), Alan Pulido (Sporting Kansas City), Jose Martínez (Philadelphia Union), Lewis Morgan (Inter Miami CF) and fellow Argentine Pablo Piatti (Toronto FC), among others (full results below).
|Lucas Zelarayan (CLB)||23.54%||25.44%||14.93%||21.30%|
|Robert Beric (CHI)||12.64%||20.18%||27.29%||20.04%|
|Alan Pulido (SKC)||6.48%||11.40%||13.43%||10.44%|
|Jose Martinez (PHI)||4.27%||1.75%||17.27%||7.76%|
|Lewis Morgan (MIA)||8.06%||9.65%||5.12%||7.61%|
|Pablo Piatti (TOR)||6.64%||8.77%||1.71%||5.70%|
|João Paulo (SEA)||3.48%||7.89%||2.35%||4.57%|
|Yimmi Chara (POR)||5.53%||1.75%||4.26%||3.85%|
MLS Newcomer of the Year Winners
- 2020: Lucas Zelarayan – Columbus Crew SC
- 2019: Carles Gil – New England Revolution
- 2018: Zlatan Ibrahimovic – LA Galaxy
- 2017: Miguel Almiron – Atlanta United
- 2016: Nicolas Lodeiro – Seattle Sounders FC
- 2015: Sebastian Giovinco – Toronto FC
- 2014: Pedro Morales – Vancouver Whitecaps FC
- 2013: Diego Valeri – Portland Timbers
- 2012: Federico Higuain – Columbus Crew SC
- 2011: Mauro Rosales – Seattle Sounders FC
- 2010: Alvaro Saborio – Real Salt Lake
- 2009: Fredy Montero – Seattle Sounders FC
- 2008: Darren Huckerby – San Jose Earthquakes
- 2007: Luciano Emilio – D.C. United