Cucho Hernández, MLS Cup MVP
The Colombian striker finishes the season with the league title for the Columbus Crew and recognition as the best player in the final.
A player who makes a difference. The kind that produces pure soccer and changes the game. Juan Camilo ‘Cucho’ Hernández left the Premier League in 2022 for the MLS. A bet that’s proving spot on so far. And one backed up by his recognition as the best player in the 2023 MLS Cup.
“It means that all the effort and the decision we made [coming from England to the United States] was the right one. I dedicate it to my family, to God, and to my teammates because without them I can’t achieve anything. Right now I want to enjoy it. What a fantastic year,” he said emotionally at the end of the match.
Columbus Crew triumphant
Playing at home and in a single tie match, as stipulated by the tournament regulations, Columbus Crew achieved a fourth title in the MLS with the Colombian as a stand out player. El Cucho scored 16 goals in the regular season and another 5 in the playoffs, including one from a penalty in the final.
In the stands were his parents, an additional inspiration on an unforgettable afternoon. “What I do is for them. I love them, it’s a blessing to have them here,” he said.
Columbus dominated LAFC right at the start of the game and Hernández was in charge of breaking the deadlock. In the 30th minute, ref Armando Villareal whistled for a handball in the box from full-back Diego Palacios. Cucho grabbed the ball and fired the ball in, close to the right post of Maxime Crépeau’s goal. Delirium at Lower.com Field.
“It was the penalty I’ve felt most nervous for. I had 7 or 8 penalties during the season, but this one was something different. I was nervous, but that’s what I work for every day... to experience these kinds of moments. I trusted myself, I trusted myself all year. This was my moment and I took advantage of it, that’s what football is about,” explained the MVP.
More than a 9 for Columbus Crew
Despite the dominance from possession and the creation of chances, it was not an easy game for the Crew forwards. They had to overcome the determination of the Colombian Jesús Murillo and the experience of a legendary player of the calibre of Giorgio Chiellini.
In the run-up to the final, the Italian centre-back had recognized Hernández’s characteristics. “Cucho has that fantastic ability to be a different 9. He floats over the field to find the right position. He has pace, quality to finish and to find passing options,” he told MLSsoccer.com.
Coach Wilfried Nancy decided to substitute Hernández with 5 minutes left when LAFC was pressing. 2-1 on the scoreboard. Cucho finished the season with 33 league games, 21 goals and with the possibility of a national team call up…. He is forced Néstor Lorenzo and Colombia to look at the MLS.