With Federico Higuain out, Columbus Crew midfielder Ben Speas making most of opportunity

Ben Speas, Crew

Photo Credit: 
USA Today Sports

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A few short weeks ago, Ben Speas was growing frustrated with his role with the Columbus Crew.

Stuck behind Designated Player Federico Higuain in the attacking midfielder depth chart, Speas hadn’t seen any first team action and was itching to get onto the field.

But after Higuain earned a suspension for yellow-card accumulation and was injured shortly after, Speas has gotten his chance. He notched assists in his first two substitute appearances of the season, and assisted in another goal when he started Tuesday’s US Open Cup victory over Indy Eleven.

“I’m happy to be out there with the guys,” Speas told MLSsoccer.com after Crew training Friday. “I was just being patient and knew my time would come. I’m glad to be out there. It’s unfortunate with [Higuain] and hopefully he’ll heal back up soon, but it’s going great.”

For head coach Gregg Berhalter, who was rumored to be looking for a loan opportunity for Speas at one point, he said he’s been impressive in an important position.

“I think he’s done well,” Berhalter said. “We asked him to come in and play a pivotal role in our group, and he’s been interpreting it in a good way. There are things he can learn and work on in terms of consistency and sometimes the final product, but I’ve been pleased with it.”

Speas, for one, isn’t surprised by his performances.

“I don’t think it’s better than I could have thought,” he said. “I’m confident in my abilities, and I’ve played in MLS games before, so it’s not like it’s anything new.”

And Berhalter said that while he knows Speas needs to improve in some areas, he knew he had the talent for success all along.

“He has that ability to make a play,” Berhalter said. “Similar to [winger] Ethan Finlay, we trust that Ben can make things happen. For him, it’s on a more regular basis and it’s dealing with the physicality sometimes of the league and doing it for 90 minutes.”

Speas knows that his spot in the lineup is far from guaranteed, but he hopes that even when Higuain returns he’ll have a spot on the field.

“It’s nice to be able to show what I can do,” he said. “So when [Higuain] comes back I guess we’ll see what happens. But I’m going to work hard and do whatever I can to make sure that I can stay on the field.”