Agustin Viana says "It's always in my heart" to play in MLS
OBETZ, Ohio – Columbus Crew midfielder Agustín Viana grew up and spent most of his professional career in Uruguay, but Saturday will be a unique homecoming when the Crew play at the Chicago Fire.
The 29-year-old was born in Chicago and lived there for the first 10 months of his life while his Uruguayan parents were doing postgraduate studies the University of Chicago. However, Viana's only recollections of the city are through photographs and his family's stories.
"My parents taught me very well about Chicago – the Windy City," he told MLSsoccer.com this week.
That's why he was thrilled the Crew signed him in late January, knowing that it would enable him to return to the place of his birth for the first time.
"It's always in my heart that I will play in the United States and Major League Soccer so I'm proud to play for the Columbus Crew," Viana said. "It was important for me and my family because the United States opened the door for them to study here."
Viana, who holds American and Uruguayan citizenship, has made an immediate impact for Columbus (2-1-3) by starting all six matches in the center midfield with Danny O'Rourke. While Viana's transition has been made easier because he speaks English, he's still adjusting to the nuances of MLS.
"He needs to play better," coach Robert Warzycha said. "He's getting there but the speed of play is something to work on. The game against Montreal [on Sunday] was one of his best. He's not shying from tackles. In that position you have to be very physical and that's what he's doing."
Goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum has also seen Viana evolve as well.
"Early on we were a little bit worried he might take a yellow unnecessarily but he's doing a lot better with timing," Gruenebaum said. "That's a big part of it because he plays hard and he's not afraid to get stuck in.
"He plays the way we expect, with Danny, in that central midfielder spot," Gruenebaum added. "He's not afraid to play out of the back as well."
Warzycha's biggest criticism is that Viana has taken only four shots, on one goal, in 445 minutes.
"He has a very good shot and he hasn't shown us it yet," the coach said. "I'm encouraging him to shoot. I'm sure he is going to score from distance."
Maybe it will come Saturday against the Fire. If not, Viana's parents in Uruguay will still be interested in his trip.
"They call me every day about Chicago, Chicago," he said. "I told them I am going to play soccer in Chicago, not to visit."