When Brian Bliss took over as the Crew's interim coach, he made a few changes to the team's starting lineup in his first game.
Saturday night in Kansas City, he will make at least one more. Designated player Federico Higuain will be available after serving a two-game suspension, and the Crew's captain and co-leading scorer will be back in the lineup.
When Brian Bliss took over as the Crew’s interim coach, he made a few changes to the team’s starting lineup in his first game.
Saturday night in Kansas City, he will make at least one more. Designated player Federico Higuain will be available after serving a two-game suspension, and the Crew’s captain and co-leading scorer will be back in the lineup.
“I don’t like to use the phrase ‘never change a winning team’ … but we’re putting Higuain back in the game,” Bliss said after today’s practice session at the team’s facility in Obetz.
The question now becomes where he will play. Prior to his suspension, Higuain had been playing at forward with a diamond midfield supporting two forwards up top. In his absence, rookie Ryan Finley has started both games and scored his first goal in Wednesday’s 2-0 win against Houston. In Bliss’ first game as interim coach, he paired Finley with Dominic Oduro, who lined up at his preferred forward spot.
Higuain seems likely to return to his midfield role, where he can provide support for the team’s forwards and also get involved in the attack.
“His role is not going to be too different because he does what he does,” Bliss said. “It’s more of a central role, it’s underneath, it’s creating but also being a leader and being on the ball and wanting the ball in a tough moment. That’s what he’s there for and what he gets paid to do and what we expect from him.”
Through an interpreter, Higuain said he is looking forward to his return.
“I’m feeling good and I’m hungry to come back to the lineup and provide for the team,” he said. “ It’s a short period of time to adjust, but I wish Brian the best, because thanks to him a number of us are here on the team. I think he’s done a great job so far, and hopefully we’ll adjust quickly.”
Higuain did leave training before other players with strength and conditioning coach Brook Hamilton, but Bliss said that was pre-planned. He appeared to have injured his hamstring while striking the ball.
Oduro said he was looking forward to reuniting with Higuain.
“I want to hope I made my case staying up front,” Oduro said. “I was dangerous throughout the whole game. Hopefully he keeps me up top and lets me do my thing. Regardless, we have Pipa coming in and he’s our playmaker. He makes room with through balls and I want to work with him up front. He’s able to find me up front and make space in the game, but he’s back and we need to get a player like that on the field.”
Defender/midfielder Danny O’Rourke will also be back from suspension, but Bliss made it seem the veteran is ticketed for a spot on the bench.
“That’s always a tough one,” the coach said. “Danny’s a true professional and a played-in player on our squad. We can plug him in in the midfield, we can plug him in in the back. Danny’s ready to go regardless of where we plug him in. The decision hasn’t been made yet on who is going to start but he’s definitely in the mix as well as (Tony) Tchani. He deserved it too.”
-Wil Trapp (knee) was active in training today and would make the trip, Bliss said. An MRI on his right knee was negative.
-Josh Williams will not make the trip, and Bliss said the injury appears to be to his head. Williams missed Wednesday’s game after being struck in the head with a ball at close range in the final moments of Tuesday’s training.