The youngest goalscorer in Columbus Crew SC history will join FC Cincinnati on loan on a game-by-game basis. The 20 year old Panamanian comes to Cincinnati after making 5 appearances for Crew SC in 2016 alongside 8 additional appearances while on loan with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. As FC Cincinnati looks to improve on their current standing, what could Cristian Martinez add to the squad?
While his loan agreement says this is a game-to-game situation and this could be just an emergency loan, I believe that this could easily be a situation that sees Martinez in Cincinnati for a long spell, if not for the rest of the season. The midfielder is stuck behind several quality players on the wing and the center of the park in Columbus and has not seen any minutes in his nine appearances in their game day 18.
One of the most interesting facets of this agreement is that Martinez did not end up back with Pittsburgh, Crew SC’s USL affiliate. I would hope there weren’t any guarantees made to Crew SC of playing time to the youngster, but I would think that Columbus would rather him sit the bench with them than down in Cincinnati.
Martinez is traditionally known as a winger, a position where he has most of his professional appearances, however, has filled in a central role in several reserve matches for Crew SC. In a recap by Crew SC blog, Massive Report, Martinez has filled in a central playmaking role “playing the space Federico Higuain normally occupies.” Could this mean that FC Cincinnati is looking to go back into a 4-2-3-1 with him behind the striker, high in the midfield in a 4-3-3 or could he play out on the right wing as he has done in his professional matches?
My question on his positioning is, would Berding bring Martinez into the fold to compete with Kadeem Dacres or Andrew Wiedeman on the right, or would he rather Coach Koch use him in that Higuain role in the center?
In 13 matches between Columbus and Pittsburgh, Martinez notched 1 goal and 1 assist in limited minutes. He has shown that he can create chances when in the lineup, but still, needs time to improve in that area. This Spring Martinez played in all 5 matches for Panama in the 2017 CONCACAF U-20 Championships, starting all 5 and assisting on 1 goal. Martinez has captained that side in several matches and has even made 2 appearances for the Senior National Team.
Final Thoughts: According to several sources, there has been some friction between Crew SC and FC Cincinnati. Could this loan show that both sides can work together for the benefit of each party? I assume that Martinez would not be allowed to play against Crew SC in the US Open Cup in the event that draw happens. Martinez could be a huge asset if he proves that he can manage in the center of the park. If not, I don’t see him permanently replacing Wiedeman or Dacres on the right wing. You bring him in to fill a hole such as the #10 position instead of replacing 2 quality players.
Martinez will either be the #10 FC Cincinnati is looking for or he will be back with Columbus soon. Berding has stated that he wants to win now and this is a prudent low-risk-high-reward move for FC Cincinnati. My vote, good move by Berding and Koch.