Federico Higuain - Columbus Crew SC - action - close-up
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Crew SC's Higuain still aims for "important role" after tough 2016 season

Very little went right for Federico Higuain in what was a difficult 2016 MLS season for Columbus Crew SC.

After registering 35 goals and 32 assists in his first three-and-a-half MLS seasons, Higuain had just four goals and three assists last season while fighting the effects of a sports hernia and complications from surgery.

But after some uncertainty around whether the Argentine playmaker would return, Columbus picked up Higuain’s contract option this offseason, and the man known as ‘Pipa’ is training with the club in Brazil

In a conference call Wednesday, the Designated Player signing admitted he had a frustrating 2016 season, but claimed he is ready to rebound.

“I’m a guy who always wants to be on the pitch, who always wants to be playing an important role,” he said. “That was the first time in my whole career that one injury took me off of the field. It was a bad moment, and I hope this year to be healthy for the whole season and play good soccer.”

After reaching the 2015 MLS Cup final, Columbus disappointed in 2016 with a 8-14-12 record that was third worst in the league. Things also soured off the field with infighting, a rash of injuries, and the trade of Kei Kamara – Columbus’ other DP – to the New England Revolution following a spat with Higuain over a penalty kick.

But Higuain defended the team’s approach to last season and disagreed that an offense that scored 50 goals in the 2016 campaign wasn’t good enough.

He said the team had done “very well, except for last year,” under Berhalter, and that Columbus was “very unlucky with injuries” and ill-timed national team call-ups.

He did admit, however, that there’s room for improvement.

“I think we’re a very dynamic team,” he said. “We know that we must do more when we don’t have the ball; that’s simple. The other part of the game, I think we did very well. When we talk about creating chances, about movement behind the line, I think we’re one of the best teams in the league. And when we don’t have the ball, maybe we’re one of the worst.”

In his time with Columbus, Higuain has always been reluctant to talk about himself and his achievements. And ahead of an important year – in which his ability to bounce back could determine Crew SC’s fate – Pipa still says he doesn’t care about personal accolades.

“I hope to play good soccer; I hope to help my teammates, to help this club,” he said. “I never think about how many goals I’m going to score or how many assists I’m going to make. I want to be able to play and help my teammates when I have the ball and when I don’t have the ball.”