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The Crew is getting the best version of Pedro Santos

The Portuguese is happy to be helping the team also in the score sheet this season.

MLS: FC Cincinnati at Columbus Crew SC Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

After Pedro Santos’ first two seasons with Columbus Crew SC anyone who dared to predict a double-digit goal scoring 2019 campaign for the Portuguese midfielder probably wouldn’t be taken very seriously.

The fans at MAPFRE Stadium were ready to give up on the winger brought over by former head coach Greg Berhalter. After all, the 31-year-old Designated Player found the back of the net just once in his first 47 matches in a Black & Gold uniform and didn’t look like an offensive threat during most of this time.

That, however, is just about to happen.

Propelled by his excellent recent form, which saw him score four times in as many matches, Santos is tied with forward Gyasi Zardes as the team’s top goal scorer this season and is just one goal away from reaching double digits.

After being criticized during the most part of his first 18 months in Columbus for his lack of goal-scoring ability, the Portuguese has displayed impressive firepower in 2019.

“The truth is that I never really focused on that,” the winger said. “The plan is always to help the team, be it with goals, assists or just good plays. Of course the fact that I’m scoring goals is sort of a relief, but the most important thing for me is that this season, I feel like I’m finally being the player I used to be and that the fans expect me to be. So I hope to keep this form until the end.”

According to the winger turned No. 10, who is the only player on the Crew roster to log over 2,000 minutes this season, the biggest change from previous seasons happened inside his mind. Since head coach Caleb Porter’s arrival, he’s been praising Santos’ importance to the team and his talent.

The boost of confidence was felt by the Portuguese, who fed from on this praise to bring his best-ever performances in a Crew uniform in the last five months.

“The biggest change has been my confidence,” Santos added. “I trust myself more and that leads me to a better decision-making on the field. And also, playing more centrally I’m closer to the goal, so that that helps too. I’m happy that things are going well this season.”

That, actually, showed another facet of Santos’ best version. In 2017 and 2018, the Portuguese was more of a complimentary piece to the Crew’s playing system, but since Federico Higuain’s season-ending knee injury, he embraced the challenge of moving more centrally to the No. 10 position and taking more of a protagonist role with the team.

“I’m feeling better in that spot every match,” Santos reflected. “I feel that every day chemistry gets better and I get to make better plays with my teammates. I’m creating chances, I’m scoring goals and helping the team and that’s all I want.”