Columbus Crew SC announced that the club has signed Argentine defender Milton Valenzuela on loan as a Young Designated Player from Newell’s Old Boys, with the option to purchase his contract at the end of the 2018 Major League Soccer season. Valenzuela has featured for Argentina’s Under-20 National Team and most recently participated in the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup.
ColumbusCrewSC.com’s Carlos Mojica had the chance to speak with Valenzuela on the phone:
Carlos Mojica, ColumbusCrewSC.com: Milton, today you were officially announced as Crew SC’s newest Designated Player. How excited are you to join the club?
Milton Valenzuela, translated to English by ColumbusCrewSC.com: I’m very happy, excited and with a lot of expectations. I’m hoping to get my papers in order so I can go there and join the team. Hopefully we can have a good year both individually, but most of all collectively.
CM: How familiar were you with Crew SC and MLS?
MV: MLS gets better year after year and good players continue to go there. In the last few years I think the League has become more attractive – I’ve watched a few games and I’ve enjoyed the soccer. Last season I followed Columbus Crew SC closely and they have a great team. I think that helped me decide to join the group. As I was saying, I followed the club last year and they had a great year. [Crew SC] Came up short in the match against Toronto, but overall I think they performed well all year.
CM: How much did the recent success of young South Americans who have come to MLS factor in your decision to join the Black & Gold?
MV: There are a lot of Argentine and South American players who are going to MLS and seeing them do well in their teams makes you hope that you can do something similar. In Columbus Crew [SC] it was Guillermo Barros Schelotto who had success and did well during his years in the League; Maxi Urruti went to MLS, he’s been there for a few years and the truth is he’s doing well; my soon-to-be teammates Federico Higuain and Gaston Sauro have been here for a few years; and I have a teammate in Newell’s [Old Boys] – Hernan Bernardello – who told me the League is progressing a lot, that it’s well organized, that the country is beautiful and a nice place to live. So, I think it’s a great opportunity for me to get to know a new country, a new culture and – from a soccer standpoint – be able to grow.
CM: Do you have a relationship with any of the other Argentines in the League?
MV: Relationships, not so much. In Newell’s I didn’t have the chance to play with Maxi Urruti. Over the past few days Federico Higuain and Gaston have contacted me and told me that they’re willing to help me if I need anything. The only relationship I have is with Ezequiel Barco who just joined Atlanta United this year. I played with him for the U-20 [Argentina] National Team at the South American Championship.
CM: How would you describe yourself as a player and how do yourself fitting into Crew SC’s playing style?
MV: I am a leftback who likes to go forward a lot and join in on the attack. I consider myself to be a technical player who passes well and receives the ball well – and has good rhythm too. I like to sacrifice myself physically, helping the team attacking and defending, not much more than that: I like to help defensively and offensively. I like to participate constantly in the game and not go unnoticed. I think I will fit in well with the team: I like to press high and possess the ball. From what the coach said that’s how the team plays – they like to retain the ball for as long as possible, press high and attack. Those are the ideas the coach [Gregg Berhalter] shared with me and I’m on board with that style of play.
CM: You’ve played for Argentina’s U-20 National Team, representing the albiceleste at the FIFA 2017 U-20 World Cup and the 2017 South American Youth Football Championship. What was that experience like and how do you think it made you a better player?
MV: It was a big and beautiful responsibility, which I tried to make the most of. I think it made me much better in terms of maturity and in terms of being able to deal with adversity. There were a few games in which we started out losing and we had to overcome that. We were able to do it in many of those matches and I think that taught me to not cross my arms and give my all until the very last minute.
CM: You’ve been signed as a Young Designated Player and you’re also the youngest DP in Crew SC history. What do you think that says about the level of trust Gregg and the rest of the coaching staff have in you?
MV: I think it’s great. Gregg has been writing to me for some time, asking me how my situation is and telling me his ideas. He told me he wanted to be able count on me from the first moment and that’s a very positive thing for the confidence of any player. So I’m going to do my best and meet the expectations of the coach and of the team.
CM: As you head into your first MLS season, what are some of your goals for 2018?
MV: I think the first thing is adapt to the club, to my teammates, to the team, to the city – adapt as fast as possible and be able to remain in the first team picture. I want to perform well and have a great season. If it’s possible and it works with the style of the team, I’d like to score goals since that’s something I wasn’t able to do last year. But I think that if the team wins, it doesn’t matter who scores. So I want to adapt, secure my spot on the team and have a great season.
CM: Finally, do you have a message for Crew SC fans?
MV: Yes, I want to tell them I’m very excited to meet them, to join the club and arrive to the city. I hope they like my game. I will give the best of me so that they can enjoy and we can have good times together.