Pedro Santos - Columbus Crew SC - heart hands

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — As the summer transfer window approaches, is it possible Columbus Crew SC’s best option for filling the void left by injured playmaker Federico Higuain is already in the dressing room?

After Pedro Santos’ impressive display in place of Higuain last Saturday, scoring a goal and drawing a penalty in a 2-2 draw against New York City FCCrew forward Gyasi Zardes believes so.

“It’s devastating when you lose a guy like Pipa in the middle of the season, but last game I thought Pedro played extremely well in that role,” Zardes told on Monday at US national team camp.

“I think Pedro might be our guy to fill that position until Pipa gets healthy,” Zardes continued. “We just have to take this break to really analyze things and see what the coaching staff finds to replace that loss. Because Pipa, man, he’s an incredible player.”

The Crew lost Higuain for the season to a torn ACL, suffered on May 25 in a 3-2 loss at the Colorado Rapids.

Santos has played primarily on the right flank in his career, and seemed to underperform in 2018, posting one goal and seven assists in 30 regular-season appearances.

He’s silenced the critics somewhat with four goals and two assists this season, and could do even more to quell it by blunting the worst effects of Higuain’s extended absence from central midfield.

Playing behind Santos in holding midfield on Saturday, Wil Trapp also had plenty of praise for the 31-year-old Portugal native.

“I thought Pedro was excellent on Saturday, especially because he’s sparingly played there,” Trapp told “I thought he did a really good job of occupying pockets, being able to turn, being able to find some final passes. And that’s what we need out of that role.”

Even if Columbus do make a splash for a playmaker when the MLS secondary transfer window opens next month, a newcomer wouldn't necessarily just pick up where Higuain left off.

“The relationship I had with Pipa -- knowing exactly where he was going to be, that kind of stuff -- you have to just build now with a new person,” Trapp said.

Neither Zardes or nor Trapp spoke against making a move. But Zardes made clear that, even though Columbus currently sit 10th in the Eastern Conference standings in their first year under head coach Caleb Porter, there isn’t desperation within the group yet.

“I think we’re still in a good place — right by the [playoff] line,” said Zardes of Columbus' spot in a congested table, just one point below the playoff line. “You get three wins in a row and things change. The points are still relatively close. I think it’s just extremely important that we just focus on the next game and try to get a win.”