COLUMBUS – Columbus Crew SC, in conjunction with Major League Soccer, today announced that midfielder Lucas Zelarayan has been voted the 2020 MLS Newcomer of the Year. The Newcomer of the Year Award honors the best player who made his MLS debut in 2020 but has previous professional experience. Zelarayan earned the most votes in polling among three voting groups: current MLS players, MLS club technical staffs (coaches, technical directors/GMs) and a select group of media members. The other two finalists were Chicago Fire FC’s Robert Beric and Sporting Kansas City’s Alan Pulido. Zelarayan, who joined Crew SC ahead of the 2020 season, is only the second player in Crew SC history to win the award and the first since 2012 (Federico Higuain).
"We are extremely proud of Lucas’ performance in his first season with the Club and are glad to see his efforts earn him the recognition he deserves,” said Crew SC President and General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “From the moment he chose Columbus and this Club, Lucas has been committed to elevating his game and his teammates around him. It is never easy to arrive to a new league, let alone in a year that was heavily impacted by factors beyond our control, but Lucas has shown his desire to stand out from the very first day he arrived in Central Ohio. Lucas’ performances and ability speak for themselves, and I think this season he has shown why it was crucial for the Club to add him to the roster. The level of investment from the Haslam and Edwards Families to bring a player of Lucas’ caliber aboard made this possible, and after just one season we are happy for Lucas knowing that this is only the beginning for him.”
Signed as a Designated Player for a Club-record transfer fee on December 19, 2019, Zelarayan made an immediate impact on the team, scoring the game-winning goal in his regular-season debut as the Crew defeated New York City FC 1-0 on Opening Match (March 1). In all, Zelarayan registered six goals and four assists for Crew SC despite making just 16 regular-season appearances (12 starts) after missing part of the 2020 season due to injuries. Notably, of his 10 combined goals and assists, half of them were either the game-winning goal (three) or the game-winning assist (two).
In 2020, the 28-year-old Argentine midfielder created 2.7 goal-scoring chances per 90 minutes, a higher rate than any other player on the team according to Opta. Additionally, Zelarayan also led the Black & Gold in competed dribbles (40) – with 15 more than the next closest player on the team – and was named to the MLSsoccer.com Team of the Week on five occasions – more than any other Crew SC player this season. Earlier today, MLS unveiled its best-selling jerseys of 2020, with Zelarayan making the top 25 list, coming in at 23.
The Cordoba, Argentina native began his career with Argentine side Club Atletico Belgrano of Argentina, where he made 77 appearances from 2013-2015 while registering 10 goals and six assists. Zelarayan then joined Tigres UANL of Mexico’s Liga MX, where he made 139 appearances, scored 23 goals and provided 14 assists from 2016-2019. During his time with Tigres, the midfielder helped the Club win six domestic titles and one international title.
Crew SC returns to the pitch for an Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Round One match against the New York Red Bulls at MAPFRE Stadium on Saturday, November 21 [3:00 p.m. ET/ UniMas, TUDN, SportsTime Ohio, MLSsoccer.com (stream), MLS App (stream)]. Information for local English radio broadcast and Spanish-language audio broadcast will be announced at a later date.