LEWIS CENTER, Ohio – Olman Vargas liked enough of what he saw of Columbus and its soccer team in the fall of 2009 that signing with the Crew in early January of this year was an easy choice.
Vargas was with Costa Rican club Deportivo Saprissa at the time for a CONCACAF Champions group stage match at Crew Stadium on Sept. 29, 2009.
“Being here before allowed me to get to know the city and also understand the level of the club,” the forward told MLSsoccer.com on Monday through a translator.
The teams played to a 1-1 tie after the Crew stunned Saprissa 1-0 on their home field two weeks earlier. Those results certainly got Vargas’ attention.
“One of the reasons I came here is the club’s history,” he said. “Also, MLS has been growing and growing the past few years. Now it’s a league that’s known all over the world. This league will help me to keep developing as a player."
Vargas says he couldn’t imagine at the time of his first trip to Columbus that he would join the Crew a few years later, but the experience left an impression.
“I was able to learn about the city and get to know the fans,” he said. “They were always there supporting the club from the beginning to the end. That’s when I started respecting the club.”
The 26-year-old comes from Club Sport Herediano of the Costa Rican First Division, where he scored 17 goals over the last two seasons and helped the team reach the final of the 2011 Apertura season.
“We worked very, very hard to get him,” Crew coach Robert Warzycha said. “When we finally got his signature and everything was OK with the league, it was a relief.”
Vargas will be part of new-look attack that includes another offseason signing, Chilean midfielder Milovan Mirosevic.
“Mirosevic is a great player,” Vargas said. “I think we’ll be able to create a strong partnership on the field. It will also be a great advantage that we speak the same language.”
Vargas finished his physical Monday morning but did not have time to train indoors with the club in their last practice before heading to Bradenton, Fla., on Tuesday. One of the first tasks in the Sunshine State is to develop chemistry with possible forward partner Emilio Rentería.
“Everybody has to adapt when you bring a new player in,” Rentería said. “It will be easier for Olman to adapt to us. It will be a little bit faster that way.”
The Crew hope Vargas’ biggest adjustment is limited to finding a new number. He was given 15, but he wore that at Saprissa before being loaned to Herediano and wants nothing to do with those digits.
He’d like the No. 9 worn by second-year forward Justin Meram. The Crew have had some discussions with Meram about taking a new number.