Hector Jimenez has certainly made a splash in Columbus since joining the Crew in January. Only seven games into the season, Jimenez has played nearly every minute, scored a game-winning goal and has tallied two assists. Slotting in at the Right Mid position in Sporting Director/Head Coach Gregg Berhalter's new system required a change in playing style, but Hector seems to have adapted nicely. Still, I wanted to get to know his skills a bit more. What better way than to stalk him for 90 (or in this case 76) minutes?
Grab a Big Buford and your favorite beverage: It's time for the ride along.
1' - The Red Bulls' kickoff goes wide to Roy Miller on their left, meaning Hector is immediately called into duty. With a speedy few steps, he forces Miller to either move to the sideline or pass it back further into New York's defense, which he does.
For those of you riding along at home, Jimenez is #12 and is wearing yellow highlighter boots. He'll be running against the Costa Rican international (#7) in defense and Michigan native Eric Alexander (#12) in the midfield. Behind him as usual for the Crew will be Josh Williams (#3).
2' - Williams and Jimenez connecting already. A Roy Miller throw-in goes right to Williams, who calmly heads it to an open Jimenez. Hector also attempts a header pass to Tony Tchani (#6), but the pass is a bit off the mark and is collected by Dax McCarty (#11).
As the play moves to the opposite side of the field, Jimenez immediately pinches in to stay within 15 yards or so of his closest teammate, Wil Trapp (#20). The Crew's possession-style game depends on short, quick and high-percentage passes that usually stay on the ground, so this compact positioning is key.
4' - A misjudged ball by Columbus' back line opens up an opportunity for the Red Bulls on the Crew's right side. Hector tracks back to help, moving to double-team the New York attacker with Wil Trapp. In doing so, however, he chose to leave Peguy Luyindula (#8) wide open 25 yards out. Peguy receives the next pass, but his schross goes harmlessly to Crew goalkeeper Clark's feet.
(By the way, the long ball that started this series for New York totally skipped off "uninvolved" Thierry Henry's (#14) back.)
5' - With the ball again on the opposite side of the field, Williams pushes up the wing and Jimenez moves to the central midfield. When Williams receives the ball, Jimenez, completely out of a normal position and unguarded makes a diagonal run that only the Red Bulls' back line is tracking. Didn't work out, but pretty stuff.
6' - Jimenez goes back to the well with another diagonal run to the SW flag, this time being served by Williams. Great run to space and subsequent cross.
7' - Jimenez just dummied receiving a pass from Trapp that went directly to Williams. Wow. That's a lot of understanding between the players, and looks bad ass when it works out. Williams' cross was broken up by Miller.
Later in the 7th, Hec (need to start nicknaming the dude or this is going to get boring) has trouble receiving throw-in from Williams, is double-teamed and loses the ball. He then continues to track the Red Bulls player from behind, working with a converging Crew contingent of four to regain possession. I love this kind of effort, especially important for a team whose style is based on having the ball.
9' - With Columbus defending a near-side corner, Jimenez sits at the top of the box. Corner does not result in a shot.
10' - Higuain (#10, but you knew that) wasn't seeing much of the ball, so he was tracking back in the central midfield. Meram, Jimenez and Pipa connect on a nice series of one-touch passes that nearly springs a one-on-one chance for Arrieta.
Side note: Gonzales (#5) having an awful start.
11' - Jimenez' heel click to Williams is another example of their deep understanding. Josh' cross again doesn't work out. Later in the 11th, a swing and miss on an around-the-leg pass to Pipa. Doesn't work out, but it wasn't attempted in a place that could really hurt the Crew.
12' - Pass from Trapp nearly too far for Jimenez to reach, but he stretches just far enough to tap it out to an open Josh Williams.
17' - Something I've noticed the back line do this year after Clark gets the ball... Wil Trapp drops to a central defender position, and Parkhurst and Gonzalez split out wide. This allows Williams and Francis to push upfield and then react based on which side the ball ends up. The risk is fewer defenders, the reward is a potential overload of Crew players in the attack. As I've said before, all well and good so long as everyone is paying attention and people hustle back in case of a counter.
18' - Corner kick for the Crew on Jimenez' right side. Hector positions himself in New Albany to start the kick, rushes into the attack unmarked. Probably a set play, but Jimenez seems to go unmarked for a lot of the game. That usually means he makes smart runs.
20' - Hector makes run on left side, but Meram has ball stolen from him. On opposite side of field, Henry and Alexander stand open and frustrated. Jimenez hustles back and marks them.
22' - Next Crew corner kick finds Hector again far away from the action. At 5'9", they must have figured he'd serve the team better playing the Rumpke guy than in the mix.
23' - MSG announcer claims that the Crew beat New York in 2008 for MLS Cup in "this very stadium." That didn't happen, but I wish it did.
24' - Emmy Award-winning broadcaster Steve Cangialosi corrects himself.
26' - Jimenez makes run far forward, but in-the-penalty-box header from Trapp (wait, what?) goes over the endline. (Trapp and Pipa switched spots briefly)
27' - Series of work with Williams and Trapp finds Jimenez stuck behind the play a bit after Williams loses possession. Josh having a tough game, and it feels like if I'm riding Shotgun, he's in the backseat. These two players are attached at the hip.
33' - Deft 2-touch pass to Williams and a smart run following it up are wasted with another bad pass from Josh.
34' - Bombs a 50-yarder to Meram (#9), then hustles into the center of the park... again completely unmarked. Hector ends up getting a great look from 20 yards out on his left, but his strike isn't clean and it goes wide of goal.
37' - Continues to pinch in when possible, but this time Higuain sends a ball his way, but past him into space. Speedy Jimenez catches up to the pass, criss-crosses the attack with another long pass to Meram. Bummer, because the simple and more dangerous pass would have been to Arrieta, who was curling a run directly past Roy Miller and onto goal. Hector's head was down right as Jairo started his streak.
38' - Jimenez makes same run behind Miller that Arrieta just made, but this time the pass is made (from Williams). Jimenez' cross is to Meram, who earns a PK. PK assist to Hector.
40' - Berhalter just leaned down and lent a hand to a fallen (and sideline crashing) Josh Williams. Both kinda popped up with some zest, and G3 gives a bit of a love tap as Josh ran back into the game. Dude cares.
41' - Hector mixed up off the ball, goes down with a right leg injury.
43' - Jimenez plays a long Icarus cross (too close to keeper); not pursued by Meram.
44' - 70-yard sprint by Hector supplies a counter with plenty of options, but Trapp's pass to him ends up slowing down the attack.
45' - Skillful one-touch pass to Pipa is one of Hector's final play of the half.
46' - Bradley Wright-Phillips (#99) take out Higuain like something I've never on Pipa. BWP was pissed b/c Williams just took him out. Yikes.
47' - Hector sneaks to the outside of Miller, makes run that Josh is watching for, gets the pass and attempts one last cross at the end of the half.
49' - Titi totally just grabbed his junk. Started as a potential quick "stuff" adjustment, and moved into a full-on thumb-to-fingers rogering.
51' - On defensive corner, Hector again stays at the top of the box. Seems to have an aversion to the penalty box. Even his goal against DC was just at the edge of the box. Later in the 51st, crafty outside of the foot play opens up a Crew counter-attack.
53' - Jimenez attempts a long horizontal ball to Meram that ends up curling too far back into the Crew defense. Quiet first ten minutes for Hector.
55' - Short range one-touch to an oncoming Williams helps fuel a smart sequence of quick passes that ends in a great look for Arrieta. Right after the pass, Hec curls around the defender and gives yet another option to the offense. Always moving into space, this guy.
61' - Waylon "Don't call me Jennings" Francis (#14) rips a rope of a cross towards a rushing Jimenez, but ball goes too long and out of play. Hec's first real attacking run this half.
63' - One-touch to Pipa easily intercepted by McCarty.
64' - McCarty's pass to Luyindula intercepted by Jimenez. Hec one-ups him with a bit of a juggle-pass that leads the Crew attack. I SEE YOUR SCHWARTZ IS AS BIG AS MINE!
65' - MSG announcers mention Trapp as someone "you could see in the conversation for Russia 2018".
66' - Jimenez not involved in Red Bulls' goal. Everyone was marked, but BWP's skillful play was enough to best Josh Williams. Rough night for #3.
68' - Oduro coming on means Hector goes to the left. Will now be working with Francis behind him.
71' - Jimenez' pass to Francis as the defender overlapped down the touchline is not a very good one, forcing Francis to hit the ball at a more difficult pace and angle than necessary. Attack is lost.
72' - Then Hector goes and totally redeems himself. A quick switch of fields gives Jimenez lots of space on the left, and he takes the opportunity to redirect his attack by marching right at Kosuke Kimura (#27). Hec gives him a rollover and a double scissor before chipping a perfectly dangerous cross to the far post. That was cool.
76' - Jimenez subbed for Ethan Finlay.
Watching Hector move and work throughout the game, I really got a sense of how much is asked of both the wing mids and fullbacks. To me, this is the heart and soul of the New Crew system. I also wonder who would step into this role if Waylon Francis ends up going to the World Cup with Costa Rica and misses six Crew games in May and June. Other teams will also be
Hec's strengths, in this game at least, were his smart runs and positioning and technical sharpness. Only on a couple occasions did he give the ball away; in many more cases, he was spurring a Crew attack.
Jimenez' main weakness is a lack of nickname. At least, one that I know of. So, I asked the Internets. Of course, a fantastic answer quickly surfaced. Well, maybe a fantastic goal celebration- the Jumping Jellyfish.