Foes may focus on Federico Higuain, but Columbus Crew know more players need to contribute

Federico Higuain

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USA TODAY Sports

COLUMBUS, Ohio – It's becoming a common refrain from opposing coaches each time the Columbus Crew are blanked – as has been the case in two of their past three matches – that the key is containing forward Federico Higuaín. But the Crew themselves believe it takes more of a team effort to score.

The latest example cane ub a 1-0 loss to New York this past Saturday at Crew Stadium.

"We obviously know other teams are trying to focus on him," midfielder Eddie Gaven told MLSsoccer.com. "That's not a secret."

While the score line was the same as two weeks earlier when the Crew lost at Chicago, Saturday's defeat – as well as a 3-0 victory against D.C. United sandwiched by the two defeats – showed a positive side.

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"The team is playing a more offensive style," Higuaín told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday through a team translator. "The last two games we were better than the two opponents even if we couldn't get the six points we wanted. The way we played was really good and we must keep playing like that."

What the Crew (3-3-3) are trying to do is move the ball faster so Higuaín can't be easily marked, and when the Argentine forward has the ball to make more pronounced runs to open channels. 

"It's better movement off the ball," Gaven said. "That's the most important thing and second is moving it quickly.

"If it's very slow and [if] every guy is taking three or four touches it means the other team is able to close you down quicker," he added. "It helps not only him but every other guy. It's a very simple concept but it's getting all the guys on the same page."

The plan is progressing. While Chicago stopped Higuaín and the rest of the team, Columbus stopped themselves against New York.

The most obvious misfire was Higuaín having his penalty kick saved by New York's Luis Robles in the 72nd minute to keep the match scoreless.

"I feel responsible for losing the game," Higuaín said.

But the numbers show that Columbus might have learned their lesson from the Chicago loss and had others step up to generate scoring opportunities to relieve the pressure on the Argentine.

The Crew had 15 shots, six on goal, against New York compared to five and zero in the Fire match. They also had five corner kicks and five free kicks. There were no corners and only two free kicks in the loss to Chicago.

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The team also sported better possession (52 percent to 49 percent) vs. the Red Bulls as well as more passes (400-359).

"That's the way you do it," Higuaín said. "There's moments you can take a break but to play the way we did [Saturday] is how we can be successful."

When Columbus host Colorado on Saturday, head coach Robert Warzycha wants that success to translate to goals.

"The game against D.C. was perfect because we moved the ball quicker," he said. "That's why we created the passing lanes and scored the goals."