The month of June has been intense for Eduardo Sosa. After not stepping on the field for a single minute during Columbus Crew SC’s first 14 MLS regular season matches in 2018, the young Venezuelan finally earned the playing time he was looking for with the team in the sixth month of the year and, week after week, he completed important steps for his integration with the Black & Gold.
Between the first appearance against Toronto FC on June 2 and his first MLS start, last Saturday against the Real Salt Lake, Sosa played in 285 minutes over six matches for the Crew in June, including a 120-minute U.S. Open Cup game with the Chicago Fire.
Last Saturday, in the team’s 2-1 victory over Real Salt Lake, the 22-year-old midfielder, who picked up an injury earlier in the season, had the highlight of his time with the club so far and ended a productive month in style by scoring the game-winning goal for the Black & Gold.
“I’m very happy about my first goal, but the most important thing is that the team won,” he said after the match. “I’m ready to play whenever, so whether the coach wants me to play as a starter, or as a substitute, I am happy to contribute.”
The triumph against the Western Conference rivals ended a five-match winless streak for Crew SC and it was as equally important for Sosa, as he could finally celebrate a victory in a match which he played.
The positive result allowed the South American to finally have a feeling of complete satisfaction in a game, as not only did he have a good individual performance, but the team also took home all three points.
“It gets me more confident because I could see the coach trusted me as he sent me to the field quite a few times lately and I feel have taken advantage of the opportunities in some capacity, but the team wasn’t winning,” he remarked. “Now I managed to play well, to make the most of my minutes and to help the team winning and it means a lot.”
Sosa is obviously looking forward to getting more and more playing time with the Crew, but there’s a significant hurdle on his way to earning a starting spot with the team. A center attacking midfielder by definition, the Venezuelan would probably have to beat club legend Federico Higuain for a place in the starting 11.
Aware of Pipa’s importance for the club, Eduardo understands the spot he’s at and his only concern at this moment is making the most of the situation, whatever it is.
“I’ll keep doing what I know on the field, but I know it’s hard,” he acknowledged. “Pipa is obviously a great player and a reference for all of us and he’ll certainly have the upper hand. But I’ve been learning a lot behind him. I’ll just keep working hard to help the club and to earn my spot in the team.”
"I was very anxious to play, it was a big responsibility but I wanted to step up because I knew I was representing Pipa... I wanted to make sure we did well." pic.twitter.com/J1LzdBj5JS— Columbus Crew SC (@ColumbusCrewSC) July 1, 2018
While a place in the starting lineup could be out of Sosa’s reach for now, he has for sure earned the respect from head coach Gregg Berhalter and the coaching staff with his most recent performances. The change of pace the Venezuelan brings to the team’s offense when he’s on the field hasn’t been overlooked by the coach, who’s intrigued about the alternatives his game offers to the Black & Gold.
“He deserved an opportunity first of all, and he showed why we brought him here,” Berhalter said about Sosa’s appearance against RSL. “He showed glimpses of things that are very difficult to teach players. I think when you talk about his ball processing, when you talk about him turning in tight spaces, he really gives us another dimension. Running with the ball is excellent.”
The midfielder’s progress has also been noticed by his teammates. Forward Gyasi Zardes, who scored Crew SC’s first goal against RSL, told the media after the match he was excited to have Sosa underneath him for that match.
“Before the game I was trying to tell him in Spanish ‘let’s have fun tonight,’” Zardes commented. “Pipa is very technical, he slows the game down, but Sosa is the same, he’s very technical. It’s crazy, if you want him closely, you’ll see players just bouncing off his body, it’s remarkable. He’s a great player and it was great playing with him.”