Well-traveled Crew defender and midfielder Agustin Viana was born in Chicago and grew up in Uruguay. Viana, a stranger to the United States since moving to South America as a baby, always planned to return to the United States to play. He was thrilled to sign a Major League Soccer contract in January and excited to bring his young family to America. Like so many of the Crew's Latino players before him, he found a home in New Albany and a place in the starting lineup.
Well-traveled Crew defender and midfielder Agustin Viana was born in Chicago and grew up in Uruguay.
Viana, a stranger to the United States since moving to South America as a baby, always planned to return to the United States to play. He was thrilled to sign a Major League Soccer contract in January and excited to bring his young family to America. Like so many of the Crew’s Latino players before him, he found a home in New Albany and a place in the starting lineup.
But in April, six days after the birth of his daughter, Sofia, his third child, his new life in his native land took an unexpected and unwelcome twist. Viana, 29, suffered a strained right hamstring in the opening minutes of a victory over D.C. United on April 27. He hasn’t played in an MLS game since.
“It’s really hard,” Viana said. “I’m not used to these things. It is the first time I have a muscular problem. But things happen and you must confront them. I have my family and my faith. I am positive still and hope to do well when the time comes.”
The hour might be close. Viana played 58 minutes in a reserve game last week and the second half of an exhibition game last Saturday against Wigan. Viana was expected to be a long-term and integral part of the Crew when he signed an incentive-laden, two-year deal with a club option for a third season.
But his return to the lineup on Saturday at Crew Stadium against the New England Revolution hardly is a given. In Viana’s absence, homegrown rookies Chad Barson and Wil Trapp have emerged as viable options at left back and central midfielder, respectively, as has midfielder Konrad Warzycha, who made his first MLS start against the Portland Timbers on July 7.
Still, coach Robert Warzycha isn’t keen on starting a youth movement. The Crew (6-8-5) is six points out of a playoff spot with 15 games remaining.
“We’ve had to make changes because of injuries,” Warzycha said, ticking off the season-ending knee injuries suffered by Eddie Gaven and Glauber and other issues that have kept key players (Chad Marshall, Josh Williams, Jairo Arrieta, Viana) out of the lineup for stretches.
There are plenty of options for the Crew, which has lacked consistency in the central midfield since the departure of Brian Carroll in 2010.
Left back Tyson Wahl has been serviceable in 16 starts. Matias Sanchez, Kevan George, Tony Tchani and Danny O’Rourke can and have played in the middle of the midfield, though O’Rourke — as he did during the Crew’s MLS Cup run in 2008 — has recently partnered with Marshall in the central defense in place of Glauber.
“(Viana) is missing the experience,” Warzycha said, noting the rhythm and match fitness lost during his layoff. “But when you have so many young guys, what are you really going to accomplish? They’re going to get better, but it’s going to be tough.”
The Crew likely would benefit from Viana’s everyday presence during its stretch run. By all accounts, he is a locker-room asset, a global veteran who speaks impressive English for someone who spent the previous 12 years of his career in South America (Uruguay and Brazil) and Europe (Greece, Italy and Romania).
“You want to be on the field and every Saturday; when you’re not playing, it’s difficult,” Viana said. “But I want to help the group do well. That is why I came here. I really enjoy the city and everything, but I want to help my teammates.”
Viana started seven games as a midfielder before switching to left back for his start against United, when he had to be replaced by Wahl in the 20th minute. He declined to say which position he preferred.
“I just need to work hard and play wherever the coach decides is good for the team,” Viana said.