Columbus Crew SC’s first Young Designated Player Milton Valenzuela had a quite good MLS debut, as the 19-year-old Argentinean helped the Black & Gold to get an important 2-0 win over defending champions Toronto FC on the road on Saturday.
Valenzuela joined Crew SC during preseason, but wasted no time adjusting to his new teammates. The former Newell’s Old Boys fullback was a solid presence on the left side of the field and played a pivotal role in the team’s victory in Canada by assisting on fellow Argentinean Federico Higuain’s opening goal of the match.
“I feel very happy about my debut,” he said a few days after the game. “It was a good performance by the team. We had a good opportunity to show what we could do, all the work we did in preseason was shown and we managed to win. I felt very comfortable. My teammates helped me a lot and when the match started I felt great.”
The young Argentinean, who has captained his country’s under-20 national team, showed he can be an asset to Crew SC on both sides of the ball. Defensively, Valenzuela was a stud, stopping an already dangerous Toronto right side, which was bolstered by the addition of Dutch international and World Cup veteran Gregory van der Wiel.
The fullback not only recorded the fifth-most passes completed for Crew SC — 45, according to WhoScored.com — but also did the hard work on the other side of the ball, recording two tackles and three interceptions in his debut.
“I thought he was really good,” head coach Gregg Berhalter said about Valenzuela. “Really poised and really patient defensively, making the guy beat him, making the guy get by him, not diving. To me, he plays older than 19 years old.”
Valenzuela’s impressive performance was also noticed outside of Crew SC’s locker room, as the Argentinean was included on MLS Team of Week alongside Higuain and center back Lalas Abubakar, another young player to perform well in Toronto.
But he preferred to share the credits for the award with his teammates.
“It’s beautiful, for sure,” he added. “But I was only selected because of the performance of the team. Being on the Team of the Week and being recognized is a plus and I’m happy.”
Last year Crew SC had Jukka Raitala, Waylon Francis and Hector Jimenez rotating in the left back spot. But, after just one game, it seems that in 2018 the position might already have a new owner.