It has been quite the run for Luis Diaz over the last nine days.
First, the 20-year-old Costa Rican made his senior national team debut in a friendly vs. fifth-ranked Uruguay on Sept. 6.
Then, just yesterday, he paved the way for the equalizer before scoring the game-winner in Columbus’ 3-1 win over Atlanta United FC.
The week started, in his words, as a dream come true.
“I’ve been dreaming about that moment since I was a child,” Diaz said on earning his first career cap for Costa Rica. “To be able to get there with all of my hard work was very rewarding.”
Uruguay ended up pulling out a 2-1 win, but it was a strong showing from a Ticos side that has undergone a changing of the guard, with a younger generation beginning to come into the fold in the wake of the 2014 World Cup quarterfinals run.
“It was a big deal,” he continued. “We know that most of [Uruguay’s] players play in Europe, they’re a very high-quality opponent so it gave a lot of us younger guys a lot of experience at a high level. I’m excited about that.”
Upon his return to Major League Soccer, the confidence seemingly made its way to Atlanta. First, an early second-half shot on frame led to a rebound-goal from Gyasi Zardes before Diaz put up a Goal of the Year candidate with the far-post game-winner just minutes afterward.
It’s been a short stint since joining the Crew on July 2, but through six starts, Diaz has already posted two goals and three assists, debuting with a game-tying assist in the dying moments of a 2-2 result at Chicago on July 17 before tallying his first goal on a terrific solo effort as part of the Crew’s 3-1 win at FC Cincinnati on Aug. 25.
For Columbus, Diaz is showing more consistent glimpses of a high-pressing threat in transition that the Crew has been looking for.
“Well you saw on display the pressing and the transition, and those are things that will be in our DNA moving forward, and to do that you have to have personnel to execute that,” head coach Caleb Porter said after the match. “You have to have guys that have a killer instinct and guys that are aggressive and guys that can cover ground, and Luis Diaz showed why we need that type of player to execute that style.”
Notably, since his debut on July 17, the Crew are unbeaten in nine of the last 10 matches (4-1-5).
Now, with 34 points on the year, the Crew prep for another road match, this time at Vancouver (7-15-9) on Saturday, Sept. 21 before returning home to host the Philadelphia Union on Sunday, Sept. 29 in the regular-season home finale.