The long rumored move was officially announced today, Hernan Grana will be joining Columbus Crew SC for the 2015 season. The deal is for a year with two option years. The Argentine will be moving from All Boys of the Primera B and a loan from Boca Juniors.
"We're excited to have Hernan join the team," Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter told TheCrew.com. "He's a very experienced defender that is used to playing in high-pressure situations. We feel that his style of play and experience are not only going to be an asset on the field but are going to help our younger players as they continue to develop."
The experienced Grana is the latest move that Berhalter has made to shore up the defense. Incumbent Waylon Francis now has strong competition from Chris Klute at left back. Klute also has every chance to compete for a starting spot on the right with new signing Grana. Late season signing Emmanuel Pogatetz will be expected to lock down the center back position with Michael Parkhurst with Tyson Wahl and draftee Sergio Campbell providing depth.
"What I would say now is the depth chart for those positions is pretty much filled and I think we have a good mix of youth and experience," Berhalter said on his conference call with the media. "Between international experience, MLS experience, I think we have most of that covered.
"In terms of depth in that position, I'm comfortable going into this season that we have a good mix."
Grana has extensive experience in the Argentine top flight, making his debut in 2007 with All Boys and then moving to Lanus in 2008. He had loan stops with Quilmes, Belgrano, and All Boys before making a permanent transfer back to All Boys in 2013. Grana's last stop in Argentine soccer was with a loan to Boca Juniors. He's made 164 appearances during his career in the Primera, scoring three goals and adding four assists. Berhalter believes this experience will not only help him succeed for Crew SC, but also help the other players as well.
"When you watch his positioning on the field, it's excellent. When you look at his anticipation, his movement at that position, it's very good," Berhalter explained. "We talk about having some young defenders, he's certainly someone that can help with that. Help teach in that. You learn a lot from your coaches and you also learn a lot from the people you play. And we're certainly going to depend on him to lend some of his of his experience and help to move some of the younger guys along."
Grana's recent experience with Boca was mixed. He only made five appearances during the Torneo Inicial after making 15 appearances during the Torneo Final in the first half of 2014. Boca declined to extend Grana and he returned to All Boys after the end of his loan. Berhalter does not see this perceived poor form as a problem for Grana in his move to the Black and Gold.
"I think that's objective, that point of view," Berhalter responded when asked about his time at Boca. "He's playing for the top club in Argentina and that's always a tall order. I think there's a lot of pressure associated with playing for Boca Juniors. I don't think that necessarily reflects his quality or what type of player he is."
His move to Columbus offers a chance to get playing time in an environment where attacking play from wingbacks is prized and something that was limited at Boca. He also gives Crew SC the starting right back they've been searching for since the departures of Eric Gehrig and Josh Williams.