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Columbus Crew SC can get more from Pedro Santos in 2018

Starting his second season with the club, the Designated Player is looking forward to make some progress.

MLS: Eastern Conference Championship-Toronto FC at Columbus Crew SC Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

With Ola Kamara and Justin Meram both gone, Columbus Crew SC will have a hard time replacing their last season’s combined production of 34 goals and 12 assists in 2018. Part of the answer for the huge task ahead of head coach Gregg Berhalter and his staff could be right under their noses, though.

Signed by the Black & Gold as a Designated Player last August, Portuguese winger Pedro Santos is in the midst of his first preseason with club this winter and he’s confident he will show some progress as the regular season starts.

After a discrete half-season in 2017, where he amassed two assists in 14 matches and showed good efficiency on set pieces, the Portuguese feels ready to add more to the team’s offensive system this year.

“I am pleased with what I did last year, but I believe this season is going to be better as I am more familiar with the club, my teammates and the league,” Santos told Massive Report when Crew SC started preseason. “I would say I performed at 70 percent of my best last year and I’ll work hard to make this season better not only for me, but for the team as well.”

One of the areas where Santos can help the team the most is with his versatility. The 29-year-old player has been mostly used by Berhalter on the right wing, his preferred position, but he feels ready to contribute in several other places on the field as well.

Last season Crew SC fans had a quick sample of that as Santos was deployed as a left wingback in the team’s last match of the season against Toronto FC and had a good performance.

“I prefer playing as a right winger, because that’s where I’ve been mostly used for the last years,” Santos added. “But I feel comfortable in any other attacking position and also to play as a left back, since I played there when I was on youth level too. Gregg asked if I could help there on that game and I said that I felt comfortable.”

Part of Santos’ success in 2018 will be defined by how well he manages to connect with Gyasi Zardes, the likely starter at the center forward position. The striker has been sharp during preseason, having scored three goals in three matches, but he will need all the help he can get from Santos, Federico Higuain and whomever plays on the left wing to score in double digits and help Crew SC.

“I’m sure he’ll bring all his skills to help the club,” Santos said about his new teammate. “We’ll need to know him better, to get used to his style and adjust so he can be the best possible fit for the team.”

With Meram gone, Santos’ role becomes more important and whether he can step up and fill part of the void of his absence or not will play a big part in defining Crew SC’s success this year. The Portuguese started well, providing an assist to Adam Jahn in the first scrimmage of preseason against the Colorado Rapids, but he’ll need to show more of that when it really matters.