Throughout his first five seasons with Columbus, Pedro Santos has continuously proven his value for the Black & Gold. But perhaps his most important year for the team was in 2021, as he embodied the Crew and how the club handles adversity.

Entering the season, Santos was the team’s starting left winger and expected to play a crucial role for a team vying for a second-straight MLS Cup championship. However, once Milton Valenzuela went down with an injury, it was Santos lining up at left back.

Simply put: it was a selfless move by a selfless player who very much embodies what the Crew have been and can be. So, it wasn’t a surprise that Santos will be an important part of the club’s plans in 2022. 

On December 8, he re-signed with the Black & Gold for the 2022 season, and the Portuguese veteran said there’s no place he’d rather play.

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“(Columbus) is a city that I like, a club that I like, I like the fans,” Santos said about reasons he wanted to stay. “My family feels good here, I’m happy here, so I want to keep my family and me here.

“I want to stay for a long time, and if it’s possible, to finish (my career) here.”

That should be music to the ears of supporters.

Through five seasons in Columbus, Santos has made 126 regular-season appearances and has logged over 10,000 minutes. During that time, he’s scored 22 goals while chipping in 29 assists.

“He’s going to continue to be an important piece, Pedro,” said head coach Caleb Porter during his end-of-the-year press conference. “Ideally, (he’ll play) as a winger, but it’s nice that he’s versatile enough to play left back.”

In 2021, the 33-year-old made 32 appearances, including 30 starts, and had four goals and six assists.

Santos is a unique player for the Black & Gold in that what he brings to the team from the outside flanks. While Darlington Nagbe offers stability in the midfield and Lucas Zelarayán spearheads the attack, perhaps no player can swing a cross into the box better than Santos.

Santos had two games last season when he recorded multiple assists in a match – which led the team.

During post-season media availability, both Porter and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko highlighted the winger position as an area where the Crew need to improve, but the head coach reiterated Santos is a “key piece” for how the Crew want to play in 2022.

And as a key piece, Santos is also a fan favorite inside Field for his performances and relationship with fans outside the white lines.

“For a professional player, the fans are the most important thing,” Santos said. “We play for the fans and for me, I like to have the feedback from the fans. So, when I go out with my family, I like (when I’m noticed.)

“In the games I try to give them some respect for the support because we want the fans in the stadium to support the players and yell our names. If we don’t give them that little thing, they don’t support us. For me it's special to have the fans yell my name.”

Santos also said it’s amazing being able to call Field home for the Black & Gold.

“The atmosphere in the stadium has been amazing,” he continued. “For the players it’s phenomenal. For the fans, they do everything they can to support us, and I hope they can bring (that energy again) for the next season because we want to make our stadium like a fortress and win every game at home. It’s possible with the support from the fans and the atmosphere.”

When he joined the Crew ahead of the 2017 season, his venture into MLS was his first time playing outside of Europe. Since then, he’s represented the Crew more than any other club he’s played for, and he’s personified a club that embodies a winning culture.

If Santos needs to play at left back again next season, there’s no doubt he’ll gladly fill in to help his teammates and fans. But if he’s deployed exclusively as an attacking player, expect pin-point crosses that will reiterate exactly why Porter believes the winger is a key piece of the team’s 2022 plans.

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