Columbus Crew SC entered Milton Valenzuela’s life less than two months ago, but the club has already written its name in the history of the Argentinean left back. Last Saturday, in only his fourth match with the Black & Gold, the 19-year-old Young Designated Player scored the first goal of his professional career to help Crew SC defeat D.C. United 3-1 at MAPFRE Stadium.
Valenzuela, a member of Argentina’s U-20 National Team, made his professional debut for his home club Newell’s Old Boys back in 2016, but hadn’t had a chance to score a goal so far. When his shot found the back of the net on Saturday, he exploded in celebration.
“I couldn’t believe when I scored, the feeling was amazing,” an excited Valenzuela told Massive Report after the match. “Scoring goals is not my primary role, but it’s obviously another way to help the team, so I feel happy about it. I was very happy to score and even happier because the team had another great game and managed to get one more win.”
The goal was the result of much insistence from head coach Gregg Berhalter, who repeatedly talked to the players during the week for them to be more aggressive on getting inside the penalty box and finishing chances following an offensive lull in the 0-0 draw with the Philadelphia Union the week prior.
After the match, he talked to Valenzuela in the locker room and congratulated him for his performance.
“I saw the play was developing on the right side and Gyasi (Zardes) was alone inside the box, so I decided to step in because I thought the ball could come to me, as it eventually did,” he said about his goal.
“Gregg has been talking to Harrison and me that he needs us to push forward and to get inside the box with confidence every time we see an opportunity coming from the opposite side. I think we have the skills to be successful on that and it was good to get positive words from him.”
G⚽️AL!— Columbus Crew SC (@ColumbusCrewSC) March 24, 2018
You'll always remember your first @MLS goal!
What a finish, Milton! pic.twitter.com/gYbxCkoYGY
The coach was also instrumental on Valenzuela’s decision to sign with Crew SC for the 2018 season in the first place. One of the most coveted young players from his country, having captained the Argentinean U-20 National Team, the left back was first approached by Berhalter months ago.
His insistence and the discussions about the team made Valenzuela buy on his ideas and decide to say yes to the offer.
“Gregg showed a huge interest on me from the first moment,” he recalled. “We talked, he presented me the team and shared his ideas on how I could fit and I liked it. He insisted a lot for me to come and that made me feel very positive about this opportunity. I thought about everything, decided to come and I love it so far.”
Despite of all his quality, Valenzuela didn’t expect to have such a good start with his new club. After four matches, the left back already has one goal and one assist, was selected for the MLS Team of Week once and has become a solid presence on Crew SC’s backline.
This seems appropriate.#CrewSC | #CLBvDC pic.twitter.com/Z8tBcOICfx— Columbus Crew SC (@ColumbusCrewSC) March 24, 2018
At the age of 19, the Argentinean doesn’t possess a whole lot of playing experience, so he collected as much information about Crew SC as he could while the negotiations evolved.
“I’ve been following the team since I knew about their interest on me,” the defender added. “I knew they had a great season last year and I believed that if I could settle quickly, I could do well here. Of course it’s not easy adjusting to new teammates and a new playing style, but fortunately everything has been going very well so far.”
Once he landed in Columbus, Valenzuela was quickly embraced by the roster. Fellow Argentineans Gaston Sauro and Federico Higuan were the first to connect him with his other new teammates in the locker room.
“They help me a lot," Valenzuela acknowledged. “Not only them, but all the other guys who can speak Spanish as well. But every player has tried to socialize somehow, even the ones who don’t speak Spanish, and that helps to make me feel comfortable here. My adaptation has been great. The group welcomed me in the best possible way and every day I feel better.”