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The Crew sign forward Cucho Hernández in record-breaking deal

Sources confirm to Massive Report that the Black & Gold are adding a player with EPL experience.

Southampton v Watford - Premier League Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

Update: The deal with Watford for Cucho Hernández is complete, sources confirm to Massive Report. The Crew will pay between $10-$10.5 million for Hernández, the most expensive deal in club history and top 10 in MLS history. Hernández will begin his Black & Gold career as a Young Designated Player.

Since the preseason, and publicly since Gyasi Zardes was traded to the Colorado Rapids on April 22, the Columbus Crew’s transfer focus was on adding a Designated Player striker who could make a significant offensive impact. Now the club is close, with sources close to the situation confirming to Massive Report that a record-breaking deal for forward Juan “Cucho” Hernández from Watford FC, who played last season in the English Premier League before being relegated, is imminent and will likely be completed and announced next week. The contract is a multi-year deal worth more than $10 million.

While more details are expected in the coming days, Massive Report has learned that Hernández will sign a multi-year DP deal with the Crew and the transfer fee for the Watford player is north of $10 million. This deal would break the previous club-record transfer fee spent of approximately $8 million spent on midfielder Lucas Zelarayan prior to the 2020 season.

Hernández checks all the boxes for what head coach Caleb Porter and the Black & Gold want in a striker. The Colombian is 23 years old, has experience playing professionally in Colombia, Spain and England and has the potential to be a prolific goal scorer in Major League Soccer.

It isn’t just goal scoring that Hernández brings to Columbus, however. Cucho hs experience taking set pieces, has played on the wings across the front three — although he will be a striker for the Crew — and demonstrated great willingness to press in the offensive half of the field. The Colombian international is a menace on both sides of the ball. Despite his 5-foot-9 height not fitting the usual striker prototype Porter has used, Hernández still averages over three aerial challenges won per match, a clip higher than most forwards in MLS.

Massive Report learned that Hernández has already been to Columbus for a physical and to tour the OhioHealth Performance Center. Hernández, who has since left the U.S., won’t see the field right away though due to visa and transfer window specifics.

Once Hernández’s visa is obtained and all paperwork is complete, he can begin training with the team but won’t see the field until the summer transfer window opens on July 7. That puts a tentative debut for the forward on July 9 when the Crew travels to Soldier Field to face the Chicago Fire.

The forward comes to Columbus after joining Watford in 2017. During his time with the Hornets, Hernández had loan spells across Spain. Initially, Watford sent the striker to Huesca in Spain’s second division. Hernández led Huesca in goals with 17 goals and was second on the team in assists with six. Huesca earned promotion from Hernández’s play into La Liga, the top division of Spanish soccer.

Columbus’ new striker’s production dipped in the next couple of seasons, jumping between teams in La Liga. In 2022, Watford retained Hernández’s services on the field and in 11 Premier League starts, Hernández scored five goals and assisted on two. Watford was relegated after finishing in 19th place in the Premier League table with only 23 points.

With the excitement, there is one area to watch closely. In April, Hernández’s suffered a hamstring injury that almost put him out for the rest of the season. Fortunately for Hernández, he returned for 19 substitute minutes against Chelsea on May 22. Since then, Hernández played 45 minutes as a second half substitute against Saudi Arabia in an international friendly.

Hernández joins a Crew roster that needs more from the forward position. In 14 matches, the Black & Gold have five goals from strikers, with current forwards Erik Hurtado and Miguel Berry scoring two apiece and Zardes netting one against the San Jose Earthquakes on March 5.