OBETZ, Ohio – The Columbus Crew SC squad could look much different next season, and may not include their two most recent captains.
At the team’s final training session of the season, head coach and sporting director Gregg Berhalter said the futures of playmaker Federico Higuain – the team’s only Designated Player – and captain Michael Parkhurst were “uncertain.”
Since his midseason acquisition in 2012, when he scored five goals and added seven assists in just 13 matches, Higuain notched at least 18 combined goals and assists for three years in a row. But in 2016 he scored just four times, assisting another three, and only played in 20 games due to hernia issues.
“I think with Pipa, he has played an important part on this team,” Berhalter said. “For us, it’s evaluating his health and being able to assess if he’s going to be able to perform at his levels. He’s a huge contributor to what we do, to our playing style, but in the same sense, we have to judge whether he’s going to be able to contribute.”
Berhalter called Higuain “a dedicated guy,” but made it clear that lingering symptoms from midseason hernia surgery and other injuries make Higuain a difficult case.
“He’s a guy that puts in the work and really looks after his body,” Berhalter said. “The conversation is going to be with the medical staff, trying to project that. If a guy makes money like he does, you need to be on the field.”
In the case of 32-year-old Parkhurst, team and player may simply disagree on the value of the defender. Berhalter declined to specify what the disagreement is between the sides, and Parkhurst told The Columbus Dispatch he and the club “didn’t see eye to eye on numbers and value” in September.
But Berhalter said Crew SC has made Parkhurst an offer and “we’re seeing how it goes.”
“It’s a tough business,” Berhalter said. “A lot of difficult decisions are made. Me and Michael were very close, but this is something where we’ll have to see how it plays out.”
If Higuain and Parkhurst don’t return, Crew SC will be a very young team. Corey Ashe, Steve Clark and Harrison Afful are the only other players currently on the roster over 30. But Berhalter said age is no problem.
“I think there’s value in knowing the league; I think there’s value in veteran leadership,” he said. “I don’t know that that would necessarily be a priority of ours. I have to see where the pieces come together these next couple weeks. But there’s also something to be said for a young, hungry team.”