It didn’t take long for Cucho Hernandez to bring his Premier League quality to Major League Soccer.
Hernandez made his Columbus Crew debut as a 62nd-minute substitute against the Chicago Fire at the weekend after completing a club-record move from Watford in late June.
The Crew were 2-0 down in Chicago when Hernandez entered the field, but scored three goals in 20 minutes with Hernandez racing behind the Fire defense and chipping over goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina to complete a remarkable comeback.
It’s about as perfect a debut cameo as you’re likely to find and the best way for Columbus to show supporters exactly why they parted with $10m to sign Hernandez, who scored five goals in 25 appearances during the 2021/22 Premier League campaign.
“I think what you saw in the 30-minute snapshot is what you’re going to get,” Crew head coach Caleb Porter said of Hernandez after the match. “He’s a dynamic player. The way that he gobbled up ground, his explosiveness on the goal, you saw it. He’s probably quicker than you guys thought. We saw that on film. His quality at the end, I mean, his final touch to then basically just dink it over the ‘keeper – that’s the type of player that he is. Little stuff: He holds the ball, he was able to dribble underneath and get out of stuff, tight spaces. We really liked that in scouting him.
“He’s not a guy that’s just going to stay in between center backs and just be a base. He’s dynamic, he can come underneath, he can float wide, he can stretch, he can score in the box, he’s a very good hold-up [player], there were a couple little headers he had. So, I think, again, that’s what you’re going to get out of him.”
Having struggled for goals and consistency across the first half of the season, the Crew clearly needed some inspiration.
It’s here where Hernandez is having an obvious effect on his new teammates, not just with his attacking presence but also with the positive attitude he’s brought to the group.
“I think the other thing I want to say is the energy, the positivity, the smile, the attitude – everything, the way he interacts with his teammates,” Porter added. “It’s a big thing. When you have a top striker, it gives your team confidence. I think you saw immediately when he went in the game, the confidence grew with the players around him.
“Now all of the sudden Lucas [Zelarayan] is linking up right with him and he’s coming to life. Players come to life when they’re around other very good players.”
Saturday’s win lifts Columbus to eighth in the Eastern Conference, just a point behind rivals FC Cincinnati ahead of their midweek trip to DC United.