Waylon Francis first became a recognizable name to Columbus Crew SC fans in the 2014 season.
The Costa Rican left back was signed the offseason prior and became a regular starter for the Black & Gold that year in then-head coach Gregg Berhalter’s system.
Francis spent four total seasons with the Crew before he was shipped out to the Seattle Sounders in December of 2017. In total, he made 83 appearances for the Black & Gold, including 75 starts, while recording 18 assists.
The Costa Rican National Team player’s time in Seattle was not so fruitful. Francis played just 11 times for the Sounders in 2018, making only five starts and recording one assist.
In early February, the Crew, now led by new head coach Caleb Porter, made a call to Seattle to get Francis back. Last year’s starting left back, Milton Valenzuela, went down with a torn ACL in the preseason and would miss the remainder of the year. Columbus wanted a player they knew they could count on.
“It was great to be able to return here,” Francis told Massive Report this week. “I think it was just destiny that wanted me back with this club. If it happened, it was for a reason.”
This return allowed Francis to reclaim his spot as the starting left back for the Black & Gold. So far this season, while battling injuries, Francis made 17 appearances, 16 starts. Saturday’s game against the Montreal Impact was Francis’ 100th regular-season game for the Crew.
“It means a lot to me,” Francis said of reaching the milestone in black and gold. “I came here in 2014 and it’s always been a dream of mine to play 100 matches for the Crew and 100 matches in MLS.”
The 100th appearance did not go exactly as planned, however. Francis went down with another injury just before halftime and was replaced by Hector Jimenez after just 45 minutes, adding to the already long list of players missing time this year.
When on the field though, Francis has done well for the Crew. Porter praised Francis and his valiant efforts so far this season, saying, “when he’s in he’s a fighter. He’s athletic. He’s a competitor.”
Porter also went on to say that since losing Valenzuela, to the knee injury prior to the start of the season, “(Francis has) been a nice stop-gap and obviously he’s even left us with the feeling like ‘Okay he’s going to compete with Milton.’”
But Francis isn’t counting his chickens before they hatch. Despite returning to the club this year and playing, Francis knows his minutes could decline if the Argentine returns healthy and to his form of 2018. He is realistic in that he could fall back into the backup role he took on for much of the last two seasons.
But that’s a worry for the future, not something Francis is focused on now. He is just looking to getting healthy and build on his first 100 games for the Crew.
“I want to play as many matches as I can and each of them will be important for me,” Francis said.
“Again, our goal now is to focus on qualifying for the playoffs and then we’ll see what happens with me next. My future is open at this moment, but I’m focusing on now is on playing and competing.”