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Zelarayán: ‘I found a family in Columbus’

The Designated Player shared his first impressions about the city and the Crew in an interview in Argentina.

Columbus Crew SC

Columbus Crew SC’s new Designated Player Lucas Zelarayán didn’t get to spend a lot of time at his new home in Ohio’s capital city. Shortly after his club-record signing from Mexican side Tigres, the Black & Gold headed to California and Mexico for preseason shortly after his arrival. But it didn’t take long for the Argentinean to get a sense of his new town.

In an interview with Argentinean website Mundo D, Zelarayán said he was impressed by the way he was welcomed in Columbus and described his first impressions of the city he’ll call home for the next few years. The arrival event organized by the club left a great impression on the playmaker.

“The way I was welcomed here, it was beautiful,” he commented. “Every player wants to feel that love, to feel important. And that’s what I found here, a family. The club was in a situation in which it could move to another city but the people from here didn’t allow it to happen. They’re good people, hard-working people and are all pushing for the same direction. I loved that.”

The Argentinean also showed good knowledge about the Crew and the club’s ambitions under its new ownership group. The player had direct contact with front office members and also head coach Caleb Porter during the negotiations and they all had a positive impact on him.

“Since day one they approached me with a fantastic and ambitious soccer project,” he explained. “They’re building a new stadium and a new training center. They want to fight at the top of the league and they want me to be the pillar, or one of the pillars, of the new team. That attracted me and the fact that the coach went all the way to Mexico to know me helped too.

“I see they have ambition and they want to be a protagonist in the league as they were a few years ago. They brought in very good players and I really like the playing philosophy here. The coaching staff works really well and I’ve felt very comfortable all the time we got to play until now.”

Zelarayán, nicknamed El Chino (The Chinese), seems well aware of the expectations the club and fans have for him. Signed to replace club legend and fellow Argentinean Federico Higuain, the midfielder is expect to pull the string on the team’s offense and to make the difference.

The challenge of being thrust into such a big role was something that actually attracted him to Columbus.

“It was the end of a great cycle in Mexico, one in which I had great achievements both personally and professionally,” he explained. “It was hard to make the decision of leaving because Tigres is a great club and my family felt really comfortable there.

“But in the end, I want to play and in Tigres, with all the great players they have, there was a lot of rotation. I knew that MLS was growing a lot and the project the Crew presented me made me want to come now. I’m very happy about my decision and working hard in preseason so I can start in the best possible way. I have a feeling that things will go well here.”