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Hector Jimenez is ready to step up again for Crew SC

The utility player will fill an important role this weekend as he replaces Milton Valenzuela.

MLS: Eastern Conference Semifinal-New York City at Columbus Crew Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Crew SC will need Hector Jimenez when the team hosts the Real Salt Lake at MAPFRE Stadium this Saturday. And, as it has always been, he’ll be there.

One of the longest-tenured members of the Black & Gold’s roster, the 29-year-old player is set to get his fourth start in the 2018 season as he’ll replace the suspended Milton Valenzuela at the left-back spot.

And this has been Jimenez’s role for the large part of his tenure with Crew SC, the club he’s been playing for since 2014. Arguably one of the most versatile players in the entire league, the (originally) midfielder is often called upon to fill holes in multiple spots in the field.

“I like being that player,” Jimenez said about his role. “It’s just, whenever they need me, I’m in.”

If Jimenez’s role is good for the player, it’s even better for the team he plays for. After all, who wouldn’t want a veteran with the ability to perform at a high level in whichever position he’s put?

Head coach Gregg Berhalter is, for sure, one to be thankful for Jimenez’s contributions to the club, not only when he steps on the field but also as a positive influence in the team’s daily routine.

“I’ve said all along how important Hector is to this group,” the coach commented. “I believe that whether he’s on the field or not, he’s the glue that holds the team together at times. Just a very positive person, he’s very focused in training, has a very positive mindset and when he’s been called on to perform, he’s performed well. To me, guys like Hector are invaluable to any roster.”

The coach was, by the way, the responsible for bringing Jimenez to Columbus and turning him in to the team’s “utility player”.

Berhalter was Hector’s teammate in 2011, the last year of his playing career, at the LA Galaxy. Three years later, when he took over as Crew SC’s head coach and sporting director, he didn’t hesitate to acquire the versatile player in one of his first moves on the transfer market.

“It’s hard to project the longevity of it, but we knew he was a team guy,” Berhalter explained his view of Jimenez when he acquired him. “I knew it from playing with him. I knew he was versatile, I knew he was skilled and that he could execute the vision that we were looking for. He was one of the most important guys we’ve brought in.”

Part of Jimenez’s efficiency is explained by his strong mindset. Regardless of if he’s expected to start or not on the weekend, his body of work during the week remains the same, among the most committed of the team. This way, the veteran not only remains sharp for whenever he’s needed by the coaching staff but he also sets the tone for his younger teammates day after day.

“My routine doesn’t change,” Jimenez guaranteed. “I just prepare every week as if I was going to start. You never know, someone can go down in the first five minutes of the game. The mentality has always been the same all throughout my career.”

However, despite of his team-first mentality, Jimenez also wants to be on the field, just like other player. And Berhalter knows that.

“He wants to be on the field and that’s always the challenge,” the coach added. “When we have guys playing well and you have guys performing at a high level, sometimes that’s difficult. But we always try to find time to get Hector out to the field because we know how important it is to him and he’s performed well. That’s the challenge and that’s the management side that we take very seriously.”

By necessity or option, Jimenez will be there when Crew SC needs him. And the team knows it can count on him, anywhere, anytime.