When Columbus Crew SC looks back at the 2019 season in three, four, five years from now, there will certainly be disappointment with how the team performed on the field in the summer, but it appears the club will be happy with how things went off the field.
The Crew was one of Major League Soccer’s busiest clubs during the summer transfer window. The Black & Gold brought in six players in addition to two — David Guzman and David Accam — via trade before the window opened. While Columbus hopes Romario Williams, Jordan Hamilton and Youness Mokhtar have an impact and Eloy Room continues to be a force in goal, the player brought in this summer having the quickest success is 20-year-old Costa Rican winger Luis Daiz.
“It’s not easy to do. There are very few players in this league that come in midseason and light the world on fire,” head coach Caleb Porter said. “I remember the boy (Fabian) Castillo that went to Dallas, it took him two years to settle in and start producing and we’ve got one that’s producing right away. So that’s really exciting.”
Diaz joined the Crew from Costa Rican club C.S. Herediano in early July for a reported $1 million transfer fee. Despite being young, the Black & Gold were excited about the player they acquired. While Diaz could certainly develop in some areas, Columbus expected him to come in and be a spark for the second half of the season.
It did not take long for the winger to make his impact.
After a little over a week of training with his new teammates, Diaz came off the bench on the road at the Chicago Fire on July 17. Playing only 25 minutes, Diaz showed his ability crossing, placing a lofted ball onto the head of Williams for the equalizing finish.
In his first start for the Crew two weeks later, Diaz again provided a game-tying helper, this time with a dazzling run down the right side of the field followed by another pin-point cross to Gyasi Zardes for a headed finish.
Anyone who watched Diaz play in his first seven matches with the Black & Gold saw the quality and speed that made the young player desirable for Columbus.
“He’s a true winger,” midfielder Pedro Santos said of Diaz. “He has high speed and he can cross very well. So we need to exploit his strengths. He knows when I have the ball, he starts to run and we can play a long ball because he can catch the ball. When he has space, he can cross. Gyasi knows he crosses very well too, so we expect he gets assists and if it’s possible, score too.”
It all came together for the 20 year old on Sunday in the Hell is Real Derby against FC Cincinnati. Diaz played distributor on the opening goal, using his speed down the wing and then playing an early cross to Zardes for the strike. He then put a cap on a nearly perfect half for the Crew, again racing down the wing in first half stoppage time and beating Cincinnati goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton near post with a powerful shot.
“It was my first goal in this league and it made me very happy for my teammates and my family,” Diaz said after the game. “That goal was for them.”
The recent games haven’t just caught the eyes of those watching the Crew but also that of Costa Rican National Team coach Gustavo Matosas. On Wednesday, Diaz, along with Guzman, was called up to the Costa Rican National Team for the country’s game against Uruguay on Sept. 6
For Diaz the one-goal, one-assist performance last weekend was a sign that he’s actually settling into MLS as well as he thought. After being received well by his teammates, Diaz was happy with his early performances but wanted to put a cap on things with a goal, especially in a rivalry game.
For the Crew, it’s an early sign that at least one of the additions from the summer transfer window is and will pay off.
“I think it shows why we signed him and the type of players that we want on the wings,” Porter said of Diaz’s game. “We want guys that are direct. We want guys that are a threat all the time. We want guys that can score goals.
”He’s only 20 years old. The kid’s going to get better but he showed a little bit why we signed him and it’s great to see.”