New Columbus Crew forward Cucho Hernandez has insisted his move to Major League Soccer will be a positive step for his career.
The Colombia international arrived in Columbus on a record-breaking deal as a Designated Player recently, filling a position of need following the Crew's sale of Gyasi Zardes to the Colorado Rapids recently.
The 23-year-old has further pedigree having scored regularly in the top two tiers of Spanish soccer with the likes of Huesca, Getafe, and Mallorca.
Hernandez's decision is likely to be questioned by some who believe he's made the wrong choice coming to MLS at this stage of his career.
But the league has proved in the past it can be a place for growth and, in some cases, rebirth. Hernandez is excited to show what he can do at Lower.com Field.
"I don't think it's a step back,” he said through a club interpreter. “I think MLS is growing a lot. Stadiums, training facilities, players coming here are all top. I think it's a very competitive league. I want to do the best job that I can and score a lot of goals, which is what people expect from me.”
Crew president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko believes Hernandez's talent, stature, and young age combine to place him among the biggest signings MLS has seen, even if his name is quite as big as some of the veteran superstars that have come before.
“I put this (signing) right up there with them, maybe even higher, because he's a young player who's entering the prime of his career, he's played and seen what it's like to play in the top leagues in the world, and yet he's choosing MLS because he believes that's the best place for him and his career, and where he can shine and be the guy and score the goals,” Bezbatchenko said.
"It's really exciting because I'm not sure it's happened before in this way (in MLS). I think it's really emblematic of where this club is and where the league is.”
Head coach Caleb Porter agrees, adding: "It's a massive signing for our club. When you look at his profile, his age, his recent form, it's a massive signing for the league as well,
"To get a young South American who's 23 years old, who's proven himself in two of the top leagues in the world — we feel like he's just beginning, as well, in terms of his career. He's in his prime, and we feel like he'll have his best years of his career here.”
Hernandez joins a Columbus Crew side sitting ninth in the Eastern Conference, three points off an MLS Cup Playoff spot ahead of hosting the Philadelphia Union on Sunday.