In 2007 when Major League Soccer introduced the Designated Player rule, it probably had in mind the kind of run Columbus Crew midfielder Federico Higuain is currently on.
Signed in 2012, the Argentinian midfielder has been arguably the Crew’s best player since, and in recent weeks has revitalized a team, and an offense, that had been stagnating.
With two more assists as part of a 2-0 win against the Chicago Fire Saturday, Higuain now has assisted or scored each of the last five goals for the Crew over the stretch of two matches, including last weekend’s 3-3 draw against Portland.
This moves Higuain’s season total to six goals and five assists, meaning he has created 11 of the teams 15 goals this season.
He again starred against the Fire, setting up midfielder Ethan Finlay in the 10th minute and forward Jairo Arrieta in the 25th to help earn the Crew their first win since March 29.
After the match, Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter said it was good to finally get a win after so long.
“It’s always better to win than it to lose or draw,” Berhalter said. “So we’re happy, we’ve been frustrated that we’ve been playing well and not getting the results. We’re still trying to focus on the product we’re creating, we’re still trying to focus on how we play but it’s nice when you get results.”
With a new lineup on the field, including Finlay starting his first match of the season and wide midfielder Hector Jimenez starting in the back four, the Crew dominated proceedings early on.
Higuain slipped a long pass through to a streaking Finlay, who used his speed to constantly pester the Fire defense, who one-touched the ball around the keeper and scored on a tight angle for the first goal.
The 10th minute strike was the earliest this season for Columbus. It was also the second goal in as many matches for Finlay, who had never scored before in his Crew career.
“He was player of the game,” Berhalter said of Finlay. “He was excellent, this game isn’t something that comes out of the blue. If we look at some of the stuff he’s been over these last couple weeks its been leading towards a performance like this.”
Arrieta’s goal was of a similar style, with a long ball played to the forward who used a burst of speed to get around the Fire defense and put it in past the keeper.
The match also saw the return of defender Michael Parkhurst, who was greeted with a standing ovation, following him being left off the U.S. Men’s National Team’s final 23-man roster for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
With the win Columbus moves back into fifth place in the Eastern Conference on 16 points heading into a two match road stretch.
Although Higuain has been playing well of late, the team will have to do without him when they travel to take on Toronto FC next Saturday because of yellow card accumulation.
The match is scheduled for 5 p.m. at BMO Field in Toronto.
Subside Sports Man of the Match: Federico Higuain
Although Ethan Finlay deserves a shoutout for his speedy runs behind the Fire defense, if it weren’t for Higuain neither of the goals would have happened. His precise passing made the difference throughout the match, and he almost found a goal of his own but couldn’t place the chip where he wanted it and the ball sailed over. It is clear from this performance that Higuain is the best player the Crew have, and they are going to miss him greatly next week against Toronto.