The Crew have had mixed results recently with international strikers, but they think new Costa Rican signee Olman Vargas has the physical acumen for immediate success.
The 6-foot-2, 175-pounder likes to be active in and around the penalty area and is not afraid to go after the ball, attributes that often accompany success in Major League Soccer. Still, Columbus know from experience there are no guarantees in the international market.
“We’re always optimistic the guy will work out right from the get-go, but some of them don’t for whatever reason,” Crew technical director Brian Bliss told MLSsoccer.com on Friday. “However, with Vargas, we’re more upbeat because of his size and the physicality of our league. I think he’ll fit in well.
And although his size stands out, he’s more versatile than his frame would suggest.
“He’s a relatively mobile guy for his size and isn’t afraid to use his body,” Bliss said. “I think that transfers to our league pretty well. He’s not one those guys who sits in the box and says, ‘Hey, bring the ball in.’”
Past foreign signings include Venezuelan forward Emilio Rentería, who came to the Crew in August of 2009 and has shown flashes of brilliance at times, although injuries limited him to 18 games in 2011. His eight goals were second to the 13 by troublesome Peruvian striker Andrés Mendoza, who wasn’t asked back for a second full season in 2012.
Of course, the biggest flop was Colombian Sergio Herrera. Amidst great fanfare, he played one minute before being released midway through the 2010 season.
Crew coach Robert Warzycha has greater expectations for Vargas. He scored 17 goals the past two seasons for Club Sport Herediano of the Costa Rican first division and helped the team reach the final of the 2011 Apertura.
Vargas previously played for Deportivo Saprissa when the Costa Rican club played against the Crew in the 2009-10 CONCACAF Champions League.
“He’s only 26 years old,” Warzycha told MLSsoccer.com. “That’s a perfect age for a player. I think we got him at a time probably in his peak. He is going to be a good addition to our team.”
Bliss likens Vargas’ style to that of a former Crew forward.
“He’ll run and get out on the flanks and chase guys down on the defensive side,” he said. “I don’t want to compare him to Steven Lenhart, but he’s that type of guy in terms of his work rate and wanting to get around the field and be combative. Plus, he’s got a good technical side.”
Vargas represents the second major signing this week following the acquisition on Wednesday of Chilean midfielder Milovan Mirosevic.
Meanwhile, Bliss said several South American players have been identified as potential Designated Players to fill the spot vacated by Mendoza. Earlier this week, Bliss said the club was looking in Peru, Chile and Uruguay.
The team is also awaiting a response from North Carolina junior Ben Speas, who has been offered a Home Grown Player contract.