The Columbus Crew announced on Thursday that playmaker Lucas Zelarayan signed a new three-year contract. This deal will keep the 29-year old Zelarayan with the Crew through the 2024 season with an option for a fourth year.
“Over the past two seasons Lucas has proven himself to be one of the top game-changers in MLS and we are excited to sign him to a new contract,” Crew president and general Manager Tim Bezbatchenko said in a statement. “We signed Lucas in December of 2019 because we know the importance of having difference-makers in MLS in order to contend for championships. He chose Columbus because he wanted to win trophies, which is exactly what he has done - helping us win MLS Cup last year and Campeones Cup this year. Lucas has proven that he can perform under pressure, and he shines time and time again when the spotlight is brightest. We look forward to seeing what else Lucas and the team can achieve together in 2022 and beyond.”
Zelarayan arrived in Columbus prior to the 2020 Major League Soccer season as a Designated Player. Coming from Liga MX giants Tigres UANL in Mexico, the Argentine was signed for a club-record transfer fee of roughly $8 million, according to sources close to the club.
In his first year with the Crew, Zelarayan delivered on the team’s decision to acquire him. Lining up at the attacking midfield position, Zelarayan made 16 appearances for the Black & Gold in 2020, recording six goals and four assists during the MLS regular season. For his performances, he was named the MLS Newcomer of the Year.
During the postseason, Zelarayan started all four games he played, recording two goals and five assists. After helping to carry Columbus to a third MLS Cup Final in team history, Zelarayan’s two goals and an assist in the championship game brought a second league title to the Black & Gold as part of a 3-0 victory against the Seattle Sounders and he was named the MLS Cup MVP.
If Zelarayan’s first season with the Crew was good, his second campaign was even better. His play in the CONCACAF Champions League, where he had a goal and two assists in three games played, set the tone at the beginning of the year and Zelarayan kept his form throughout.
In the 2021 MLS regular season, Zelarayan led the Black & Gold with 12 goals and seven assists. He tied Sebastian Giovinco’s 2015 tally for second-most free kick goals in a single regular season with five. Zelarayan was named to and started in the 2021 MLS All-Star Game and participated in the MLS All-Star Skills Challenge, where he finished first in the two events in which he took part. In the 2021 Campeones Cup, won 1-0 by Columbus over Liga MX side Cruz Azul, Zelarayan was named the Man of the Match for his performance.
In total, Zelarayan has made 53 appearances, 48 starts, across all competitions with the Crew, registering 21 goals and 19 assists. He has been named the Black & Gold’s Most Valuable Player in each of his two seasons in Columbus and will look to build on his success in the future with a new deal with the club secured.