In soccer, the strikers, playmakers and goalkeepers typically garner most of the headlines and adoration. But winning teams are constructed much like a house. Where the Columbus Crew SC’s bricks are Gyasi Zardes, Zack Steffen and Federico Higuain, veteran Hector Jimenez is undoubtedly the mortar that keeps the squad intact. Hector’s ability to be impactful as a left back, right back or at either wing position is the type of versatility needed for successful teams to handle the ups and downs of a long season.
Versatile players who are serviceable anywhere on the field and consistently make an impact throughout the game are a soccer coach’s dream. Call them a Swiss Army Knife, role player, utility player, whatever term you wish to use, it is a foregone conclusion that they are a key ingredient for success. Whether that time on the field is for a full 90-minute battle or a mere five-minute strategic substitution role, it is imperative that a team possess such players. That player for Caleb Porter and the Columbus Crew is assuredly Hector Jimenez.
Case and point, Jimenez’s one minute plus stoppage time shift versus the New England Revolution last Saturday. On one marvelous play, Jimenez was able to assist in icing the game by delivering a calm, cool, crisp pass to goal scoring savant, Gyasi Zardes. Jimenez hadn’t even broken a sweat yet when he streaked down the left wing, perfectly settled a long pass from Steffen, outpaced his defender and delivered a pinpoint pass to an onrushing Zardes for the goal. The stoppage time tally put the nail in the coffin of a 2-0 road shutout.
As a youngster, Jimenez could score goals at will, but at the insistence of his then coach, who just so happen to be his father, Jimenez was pushed to dish out assists. His father was adamant that he would rather see Hector collect 10 assists than score 10 goals. His professional career indicates he has taken his father’s words to heart, as he has accumulated 21 assists, as opposed to five goals in just over eight seasons.
Porter recently gushed about Jimenez, stating “He is a team guy, shows up every day. He’s a good pro, has the right attitude.” Every coach wants the luxury of having players off the bench they can count on when called upon. In a nutshell, that is Hector Jimenez. Porter was adamant, “I put him in (against New England) because I trust him.”
While recollecting on the mortar players that contributed to Porter’s MLS Cup winning Portland Timbers team, he referenced the positive attitude and ability of Jack Jewsbury. Much like Jimenez, Jewsbury played a multitude of positions and was a jack-of-all-trades (no pun intended) type of player. Both may be unheralded from an outsider’s perspective, but certainly integral to those on the inside.
Perhaps the biggest compliment to Jimenez came when Porter divulged that he sees a bit of himself in Hector. Porter’s ascension to one of the United States’ most accomplished young coaches, is rooted in his time as a mortar-type of player himself. Porter put an exclamation point on the Jimenez talk by saying, “He is going to make a good coach someday.”