The 2019 Columbus Crew SC season came to an end in early October with the Black & Gold missing out on the MLS Cup playoffs. While no postseason in Columbus is certainly a disappointment, the Crew did finish the year well and there’s optimism in the air heading into 2020.
Before we start looking ahead, we have to look back and review the 2019 season that was. The next edition of Massive Report’s positional review focuses on the wingers.
Editor’s note: The wingers and outside midfielders are listed in order of the number of appearances and not in any form order.
While 2019 was the best season for Pedro Santos wearing the Black & Gold, it’s easy to forget that he was once playing on the wing prior to the injury to Federico Higuain. Before he moved to the attacking midfield position behind forward Gyasi Zardes, Santos tallied three goals and two assists through 15 appearances at winger. It was nothing more than what Crew fans had sadly expected from Santos out of the position.
In the two seasons prior to 2019 under Gregg Berhalter, Santos had only a single goal and nine assists tallied in 39 appearances as a winger. While the first 15 games under head coach Caleb Porter showed much more promise for Santos, the attacking midfield positions better allows the Portuguese native to showcase his playmaking ability, having a more direct say in the attack.
While the Black & Gold will explore adding a new attacking midfielder to replace Higuain, Porter wants Santos to tuck inside and help create as an alternate No. 10 going forward.
The former Wake Forest product is coming off of his best season with the Black & Gold. After notching a goal and three assists, Luis Argudo is surely a part of Caleb Porter’s plans going into 2020. After a career-high 21 games in which he’s featured in 2019, Agurdo proved his reliability as a quality presence off of the bench. As a player who can lineup as both a winger or an attacking midfielder, his versatility is a quality that the Crew can certainly use moving forward.
Argudo got most of his playing time on the right side of the field after Federico Higuain’s injury. Moving Santos to the attacking midfield position, Argudo was the obvious insertion at the right wing sport before the acquisition of Luis Diaz in the summer transfer window. His man of the match, one-goal, one-assist performance against the New York Red Bulls on July 27 was his best game of the season. He’ll look to provide a spark for a hungry Black & Gold side striving for a better overall showing in 2020.
The Brazilian’s stay in Columbus was short-lived and unfortunately for both him and fans, very underwhelming. While he showed flashes of potential through traditional Brazilian flair and trickery, Robinho registered only two assists through 19 appearances under Caleb Porter. He eventually was traded to Orlando City SC where he struggled to make his presence known. He went on to play in six matches and failed to make an impact for the Lions.
Before moving to Columbus on May 8, fans were quick to forget that Accam was a part of the Crew’s first beatdown of the season: a 3-0 loss away to the Philadelphia Union which ended the Black & Gold’s initial undefeated streak of five games to begin the 2019 campaign. It was only eight days later that Accam was announced as a soon-to-be member of the upcoming inaugural season of Nashville SC in 2020, a move that will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.
Accam was largely solid for the Black & Gold and played a key role mostly on the left flank for Caleb Porter. Hampered by injuries for most of the season, Accam was able to shake the bug and showcase his reliability in 2019. Although providing only two goals and an assist for the Crew, he was quick to become a favorite amongst fans and barring any setbacks, will provide a veteran presence for the newest expansion side in MLS.
Diaz proved to be the most exciting of Caleb Porter’s 2019 signees, as he was everywhere for the Crew when on the pitch. In 13 appearances, Daiz scored two goals and added four assists. His goals per 90 minutes of 0.36 was third-best on the team for players who played a minimum of 10 games. His scorcher against Atlanta United is surely a goal that fans won’t soon forget.
The Costa Rican showcased an important ability to cut inside and create his own goals. He fits the mold of players the club is currently looking for: young and exciting.
Fans should expect big things out of Diaz moving forward once he can get a full offseason with the team and the head coach. Diaz seems fit to take over a right wing position that has lacked consistent production from since 2015 when Ethan Finlay notched 12 goals and 13 assists in a run to the MLS Cup Final.
The second addition at the winger position from Caleb Porter from the midseason transfer window was Moroccan international Youness Mokhtar. Mokhtar transitioned very well, coming overseas and into Major League Soccer, despite not having played soccer in multiple months prior to his move. He, very much like Diaz, was an integral part of Porter’s plans to close out the 2019 season and moving onwards to 2020. Though he was overshadowed by Accam at the left wing position during much of the season, Mokhtar showed a lot of flashes of playmaking ability in a crucial role that was voided by Justin Meram.
Mokhtar’ss lone goal through eight games was the game-winner against the Philadelphia Union, which saw him earn his first man of the match performance. He again, like Diaz, will play a crucial role in Porter’s plans in the coming seasons.
Used mostly as a substitute for the 2019 season, the three-year veteran suffered his worst season as a member of the Black & Gold. Seeing action in a career-low nine games in 2019, Hansen failed to notch a goal or assist for the Crew before moving to the Houston Dynamo on Aug. 8 where he also failed to make his presence known. Hansen will look to insert himself in the discussion for Dynamo’s right wing rotation in the 2020 season.
The long-time left winger for the Black & Gold left Columbus for Atlanta United after failing to showcase quality under Caleb Porter. Like Hansen, Meram notched nine appearances and failed to register a goal or an assist before moving to Atlanta and helping the Five Stripes make a run in the MLS Cup playoffs. He went on to start 14 games, appearing in another six and scoring four goals for the defending MLS Cup champions.
Meram was quick to become a favorite of United head coach Frank de Boer. While it was a shame that he wasn’t able to work out under Porter, Meram will be remembered as a fan-favorite throughout his nine years for the Crew. He finished his career in Columbus with 38 goals and 34 assists.
The Crew’s failure to make the playoffs certainly does not fall on the wingers. Overall, stats show slight progression, as wingers in the 2019 season accounted for 21 total goals compared to 20 from the 2018 season. With less than half of a season from both Youness Mokhtar and Luis Diaz and the promise they were able to display, it will be interesting to see the progression of the entire unit moving on to the 2020 season.
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