COLUMBUS, Ohio – Can a player with just four games on his resume be a league MVP candidate?
If newcomer Federico Higuain continues producing at his current rate and his Columbus Crew keep climbing the standings, there’s a possibility the Designated Player could be in the conversation at season’s end.
That’s because the team’s culture and attack have changed dramatically since the Argentinean made his debut to start the second half at Houston on Aug. 19.
GOAL: Higuain shows class with FK goal
He’s been a part of seven of the Crew’s nine goals since then, with three to his name and four assists, including a secondary helper on Eddie Gaven’s 95th-minute goal Wednesday night that gave the Crew a 2-1 win against Philadelphia.
“[Higuain] brings that energy, that class,” captain Chad Marshall told MLSsoccer.com by phone after the match. “He’s a proven goalscorer, but even when he’s not scoring, he’s setting people up.”
Higuain arrived in Columbus on Aug. 15 but did not play that night as the Crew tied LA 1-1 to start their five-game unbeaten streak (3-0-2).
That was followed by a 2-2 tie with the Dynamo in which Higuain had an assist. Since then, the Crew have won all three of Higuain’s starts with a markedly improved offense.
To wit, Columbus averaged one goal per contest through the first 21 games and didn’t score more than twice in any match. They have 10 goals (2.5 average) in their past four games, including four vs. New England last Saturday, when Higuain scored twice.
Coach Robert Warzycha said at the time of the signing that Higuain would elevate the play of those around him and he has been proven right.
Gaven hadn’t scored since getting his fourth on June 30 vs. Real Salt Lake, but has found the back of the net three times in the past four games with Higuain assisting on all of three.
Meanwhile, Jairo Arrieta, another recent addition, has two goals and an assist in four games with Higuain and the Costa Rican forward now has five goals and two assists in nine matches.
“We already have two players in Eddie and Jairo playing better soccer because of Higuain,” Warzycha told to MLSsoccer.com in a phone interview. “I’m sure that Dilly [Duka] will pretty soon when he plays with him a little bit more. I’m sure Milo [Mirosevic] is going to be fitting in, too.”
GOAL: Higuain feeds Williams
Warzycha also pointed to the first career goal by defender Josh Williams, a header via a Higuain free kick against Philadelphia, as proof of the Argentine’s ability to spread opportunities throughout the side.
“[Williams is] better because he’s got good set pieces from Federico,” Warzycha said.
And perhaps more than what he does on the field, although that seems unlikely given his immediate success, Higuain’s new teammates are impressed by his attitude.
“He shows that he really cares, that he really wants to be here and is doing everything he can to help us win,” Marshall said.
There’s been a lot of that lately and the Crew (11-8-6, 39 points) is tied for sixth in the Eastern Conference with Montreal but only three points back of third-place Houston with a game in hand.
The Crew host Montreal on Saturday and complete their stretch of seven games in three weeks at New England on Sept. 5.