As we approach the new year of 2021, the Major League Soccer offseason continues to move forward with news of players signing and leaving. Sunday evening, Columbus Crew fans saw one of their favorite defenders announce his time in Ohio came to an end.
Fullback Hector Jimenez announced on his Instagram page a goodbye message to Columbus, Crew fans and teammates after spending the last seven years of his life with the Black & Gold.
His post reads:
Thank you!You have been home for the past 7 years of my life. They have been full of amazing memories that I’m forever grateful for. Thank you for allowing me to grow as a player and as a man. To the fans, thank you for your unconditional support through all the highs and lows. You have gone through some incredible adversity and showed just how strong this community really is. Thank you for never giving up on me, this club nor this city. To my teammates, coaches and support staff, thank you! I wouldn’t be the player or man I am without each and every one of you and I wish you all nothing but the best. I’ve made so many friendships while in Columbus that will last a lifetime. This club and city will always be a part of me.
Monday morning, it was announced that Jimenez will join MLS expansion side Austin FC for the 2021 MLS season. This will be the third club he was played for in his career as he returns to the Western Conference. It will also be the second time Jimenez plays on a team owned by Anthony Precourt, the former owner of the Crew.
Former teammates such as Justin Meram, Ethan Finlay, Wil Trapp and Zack Steffen, along with current Crew players Darlington Nagbe, Eloy Room and Artur all commented with support and admiration for one of the longest-tenured Crew players over the past decade. Fans also took to social media to thank Jimenez for the seven years he spent in Columbus.
Jimenez began his MLS career with LA Galaxy when he was drafted in the second round of the 2011 MLS SuperDraft. The former California Golden Bear saw his playing time for the Galaxy increase significantly in his second season, going from two games played to 15. After a 2013 season in which he was a choice first-team player for LA, the Crew acquired Jimenez in a trade for a second-round draft pick and allocation money.
Under manager Gregg Berhalter, Jimenez became a regular starter playing a variety of positions for the Crew. His first season in Columbus was productive with 19 starts and scoring a great finesse goal in April to secure a point against D.C. United.
He played more than 20 games for the Crew in his following two seasons, including the 2015 campaign where Columbus won the Eastern Conference title but fell in the MLS Cup Final to the Portland Timbers 2-1. Jimenez saw his appearances decrease in 2018 when the Crew brought in Argentine left back Milton Valenzuela as the new starter.
His final two years in Columbus included being the starting fullback for new head coach Caleb Porter in 2019 after a season-ending injury to Valenzuela. In that season, Jimenez scored his second and final goal for the Black & Gold in a 3-1 win against his former club, the Galaxy. In 2020, Jimenez started four matches and made his four substitute appearances. His final appearance for the club was in the MLS Cup Final that the Crew won 3-0 against the Seattle Sounders.
The 32-year old defender leaves the Crew as a champion for the Black & Gold after arriving as a two-time champion with the Galaxy. Jimenez will have a chance to be a regular starter for Austin FC in its inaugural MLS season in 2021.
There is no doubt Crew fans and teammates will miss his energy and passion he brought to the club since 2014.
The MLS offseason continues for the MLS Cup champions with the expectation of new players arriving in Columbus and members of the 2020 squad continuing to move teams. The club retained 22 players from the championship squad while eight players whose contracts were either declined by the Crew or ran out are still available to sign.
Jimenez is the first to have a confirmed new team as he trades the Black & Gold for the green of Austin.