Since the Columbus Crew officially announced the signing of forward Cucho Hernández on June 21, Crew president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko and head coach Caleb Porter have each fielded many questions about the record $10-plus million dollar man. On Friday, Hernández was officially debuted in a press conference at the OhioHealth Performance Center and the Black & Gold community learned more about the former English Premier League striker, including previous knowledge of Columbus and how he fits into the club.
Hernández’s introduction began on Wednesday when he arrived at Ohio’s capital city and met supporters from the Nordecke, including members of Hispanic supporters groups La Turbina Amarilla and Guardia 96. In an event at Lower.com Field, Hernández was introduced to supporters, took pictures, signed autographs and received gifts from Crew fans. On Friday, it was time for Hernández to speak publicly.
After taking part in an individual training session at the OhioHealth Performance Center prior, Hernández posed for more pictures, this time with Bezbatchenko and Porter, before answering questions with help of an interpreter.
Since the record signing became public, leaders within the Black & Gold organization all shared their excitement that Hernández signed with the club. After all, it’s not every day that a Major League Soccer team, especially one in Columbus, signs a young, 23-year-old, talent from the Premier League. For Hernández, joining the Crew and MLS is based on the growth of the league and the Black & Gold weren’t an unknown commodity.
“I knew the club because I started following MLS in the last few years,” said Hernández. “So, before the Crew reached out, I already knew about the teams in the league.”
That meant that Hernández was aware of his future teammates. Columbus’ new No. 9 mentioned the Crew’s No. 10, midfielder Lucas Zelarayán, as a player with a lot of quality and one who he envisions as a strong goal-scoring partner. Winger-turned-fullback Pedro Santos and the Black & Gold’s young talent also stuck out to the Colombian international when he watched the team, but it isn’t only offense on his mind.
“I really like the defensive solidness the team has, the aggressiveness and the desire to work until the end,” Hernandez continued.
His focus on the team fits perfectly into Porter and Columbus’ team-first mentality. That was clear from Hernández, who has every right to come in with confidence after proving himself in arguably the toughest league in the world in England. Instead, Hernández was upfront that entering the team is not about how other players adapt to him, but how he adapts to the team.
Even with the team always in mind, Hernandez knows why he’s in Columbus. The Colombian didn’t become the Crew’s record signing to sit back and pass around the offensive half of the field. Hernández is with the Black & Gold to score goals. Last week, Porter said that Hernández wants to lead the league in goals and become the face of the club. Friday, Hernández reiterated that goal scoring intent.
On Friday, there was an underlying theme beneath a lot of what Hernández shared. Wednesday’s meet-up with supporters is something that was part of his decision to move. While Hernández knew about MLS after watching it from afar, once Columbus reached out to offer a deal, his search became more focused. What Hernández found was about his teammates and Porter’s tactics, sure, but there was something more.
“Something that really stood out to me was the environment,” said Hernández. “You can see it’s a very united family and that everyone works for the same goal. I hope I can be just another piece who’s here to help.”