When the final whistle blew following the Columbus Crew’s 3-0 victory against the Seattle Sounders at the MLS Cup Final on Saturday, star midfielder Lucas Zelarayan told head coach Caleb Porter that the decision of joining the Black & Gold and Major League Soccer had changed his life.
Those nice words could very well have come out of the mouth of another Crew midfielder.
When he arrived in Columbus at the beginning of 2017, Artur was just a month ahead of his 21st birthday and had only four matches of professional experience under his belt with Brazilian side Sao Paulo Futebol Clube. Nearly four years later, the 24-year-old Brazilian finds himself in a completely different position as his development over the years prompted him to become the heart of Columbus’ midfield and to secure his first title as a professional player.
“Since I was a kid, I always dreamed about winning championships as a professional soccer player,” he reflected. “I’ll never forget this weekend and I hope it’s the first of many titles. My teammates and I wrote our names in the history of the club and that’s such a special club for me. The Crew opened its doors for me and allowed me to play overseas for the first time in my career. I matured a lot here and had the opportunity to start my family too.”
For Artur, who missed only one match throughout the entire season, as with many other players on the roster, the victory had an even greater feeling of satisfaction. Three years ago, the team spent an entire season working under the pressure of what seemed to be an inevitable and exhausting process of relocation that would send the team to Austin, Texas.
Bred in the Brazilian soccer culture, in which the simple possibility of a centenary club packing its bags and moving out of town is laughable at best, Artur is glad he didn’t have to experience that and that team got to repay the hard work and the dedication of those who fought for the Crew to stay in Columbus with the team’s second-ever MLS Cup Trophy.
“This title means so much, all involved with the club deserve it a lot,” he commented on his post-match interview. “With everything that happened in the past few years, including our fans leading the Save The Crew movement, Dr. Pete (Edwards) and the other owners working behind the scenes to preserve the history of the club… the Crew has a huge history and it couldn’t be erased like that. I’m sure everyone in town is really happy. Unfortunately, we couldn’t celebrate with all of our fans at the stadium, but I know they’re celebrating in the city.”
The 2020 season was arguably the best of Artur since he arrived in Columbus. The Brazilian remained as the team’s ball-winning player in midfield, still covered a lot of ground for the Black & Gold and was in the conversation for the best players at his position, but also added a nice scoring touch to his game this year.
Three of his four goals scored in a Crew uniform happened within the last two months and Artur also ended 2020 with a career-high four assists. And he believes there’s still more to come in the coming years.
“The goal is always to keep improving,” he remarked. “Winning the championship and finishing such a difficult season so well was a big step. I want to keep getting better and go as far as I can as a player. I want to be the best I can.”
And, it seems, Columbus will continue being the place where he finds the conditions he needs to push his career forward.
“We have a bright future ahead of us with a new stadium and a new training facility,” he added. “Big things are waiting for us, I’m sure.”