Colombia international striker Cucho Hernandez has agreed a Designated Player deal with the Crew as the club’s new striker for a transfer fee of between $10 million and $10.5 million from recently relegated English Premier League club Watford , sources told The Dispatch.
Hernandez is under the control of the club for three and a half seasons, until 2025.
Multiple outlets, later confirmed by The Dispatch, reported that Hernandez and the crew were close to finalizing a deal on Saturday. The agreement was reached on Monday and will be announced as early as Tuesday.
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The transfer fee for Hernandez, 23, is the largest acquisition cost in Crew history, surpassing the $8 million paid to acquire Lucas Zelarayan ahead of the 2020 season.
Zelarayan signed a contract extension this offseason and has a total compensation of $3.7 million, making him one of the top 10 highest-paid players in MLS. Hernandez is likely to be the second highest paid player, if not the highest paid player on the team, in addition to being one of the highest paid forwards in MLS.
The $10-10.5 million transfer fee makes it one of the richest deals in MLS history.
For the first season, Hernandez will be classified as a Designated Youth Player, which means his salary cap load will be $200,000, less than that of a traditional Designated Player. He will become a Designated Player the following season, resulting in a budget charge of $612,500 this season.
The signing of Juan Camilo Hernandez Suarez, commonly known as ‘Cucho’, ends a long search for the next top striker in the squad after he traded Gyasi Zardes to open up a Designated Player spot.
Hernandez, 23, fits the criteria the Crew had publicly stated: a younger striker, can play at the peak of his career in his next contract, and is a rising young talent who could be the face of the club and a recognizable name in the league after a stellar year at Watford.
Initial reports of the Crew’s search for a striker indicated a deal for Argentine Gustavo del Prete, but he was signed by Mexican club Pumas. The crew had a backup option in Club Tijuana and former Houston Dynamo player Mauro Manotas.
But Hernandez is by far the most established of these three, bringing La Liga and Premier League experience to MLS which is rather unheard of for a young player entering the league.
Hernandez was called up to the Colombian national team for friendlies in the last international window after scoring five goals in 25 games for Watford in the English Premier League. Watford were relegated to the English Premier League at the end of the season, prompting Hernandez to consider playing elsewhere.
Hernandez signed with Watford aged 17 from hometown club Deportivo Pereira but didn’t make an appearance for the English side in the world’s top league until last season, when he was played on the right wing and finished tied as the club’s second top scorer.
The striker was loaned out to the Colombian first division before making the jump to the Spanish second division with SD Huesca in 2017.
He was the driving force behind Huesca’s promotion to La Liga, scoring 15 goals in 35 games.
Hernandez spent two more seasons in La Liga, one each with RCD Mallorca and Getafe, scoring 11 goals in 79 games. Watford then kept him on the list for the following season.
Assuming he gets his visa and transfer certificate, Hernandez can play with the Crew on July 9 against the Chicago Fire at the earliest. The MLS summer transfer window opens on July 7.
If he completes the proper paperwork before the transfer window opens, Hernandez can train with his new team.
Team general manager Tim Bezbatchenko and coach Caleb Porter said at the start of their search that they were looking for a striker who could connect well with Lucas Zelarayan and who would be able to score 15-20 goals, minimum.
Hernandez has already shown he can be a reliable attacking player in arguably the top two leagues in the world. Now he will have the opportunity to do so as the face of a franchise.