OBETZ, Ohio – Federico Higuaín made an immediate impact when he played the second half in his Columbus Crew debut Sunday at Houston. On Wednesday night, he may get a chance to show what he can do in a longer stint.
Columbus head coach Robert Warzycha hinted his Designated Player, who arrived from Argentina only seven days ago, could start against Toronto FC at Crew Stadium for the midweek clash (7:30 pm; MLS Live).
“His legs are little bit heavy, but he did well in his first 45 minutes,” Warzycha told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “We’re trying to keep him on the field as long as we can.”
Higuaín’s pinpoint pass set up Eddie Gaven for the go-ahead goal before a late equalizer by Adam Moffat left the Crew (8-8-6) with a 2-2 draw. Higuaín combined well with forward Jairo Arrieta and also barely missed with a curling, 25-yard free kick as full time neared.
“This guy came on and within five minutes had a shot on goal, a good change of the point of attack,” goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum said. “You can tell he’s a great player.”
Defender Carlos Mendes said Higuaín will help the Crew on both sides of the ball.
“He can hold the ball for us,” he said. “Sometimes we need to control the game a little bit more and possess the ball better. That’s the best defense you have because it’s tough to defend for 90 minutes.”
A Higuaín start would likely send Justin Meram to the bench. Under that scenario, Higuaín would play an attacking center midfield with Gaven and Dilly Duka on the wings.
However, with the Toronto match the Crew’s third game in eight days followed by four more over the next two weeks, Warzycha will probably juggle the lineup.
“That would be the smartest thing to do,” he said. “The other thing, though, is the guys had a good game [Sunday] so they don’t want to be disappointed sitting on the bench.”
Another possible move is the return of Milovan Mirosevic after missing the Houston match because of an ankle sprain. He usually sets up behind Arrieta but for the D.C. match on Aug. 4 he teamed with Chris Birchall as the defensive midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
“Absolutely, it’s not the best position for him,” Warzycha said of Mirosevic’s holding role. “He needs to be higher but it’s natural for him to go forward so I think he’ll be okay.”
Going with Mirosevic could mean sending Cole Grossman to the bench after he notched his first career goal against Houston.
Wednesday’s match was originally scheduled for Aug. 11, but was postponed so the Crew could attend the funeral that day of rookie midfielder Kirk Urso, who passed away unexpectedly on Aug. 5.
While Columbus and Toronto play for the Trillium Cup and matches get testy at times, Gruenebaum said he and his teammates appreciate the efforts made by the Reds to move the match.
“Their players and coaches and fans were very respectful,” he said. “It’s a heated rival, but at the end of the day, we’re all playing a game and there’s obviously more to life.”