About two months ago in this column, the question came up: Who will be DP? When the L.A. Galaxy signed David Beckham in 2007, MLS created the designated player rule to allow clubs to pay players above the league’s $335,000 max salary. And with FIFA’s international transfer window open throughout most of July, the Crew had the chance to acquire a foreign talent worth that kind of money.
They waited until the absolute last moment, but their patience paid off. With Federico Higuain, the Crew seems to have struck gold.
The Argentine forward, whose brother Gonzalo stars for Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid, made his Crew debut as a second-half substitute Aug. 19 in Houston. The impact was instant; Higuain lofted a gorgeous chip to a streaking Eddie Gaven, who buried it. Three days later, Higuain assisted Gaven again before scoring himself for a 2-1 home win against Toronto.
The real fireworks began three days later at home against New England. Higuain scored twice off of free kicks, “Bend It Like Beckham”-style, leading Columbus to a dramatic 4-3 victory alongside two goals from his new partner in crime, Jairo Arrieta.
Higuain was elated, and it showed. He stayed on the field after Saturday’s match to sign autographs for fans in the stands, then joined the Crew’s usual “autograph alley” meet-and-greet session afterwards.
“The people have been really supportive,” Higuain said Tuesday through a translator. “I’m trying to give something back to the people who have been so helpful.”
This was exactly the kind of welcome he expected after meeting with former Crew superstar Guillermo Barros Schelotto in advance of his move to Columbus.
“We talked about the city and how beautiful and how quiet it is, and how the people are very friendly,” Higuain said.
Higuain obviously is feeling at home on the pitch too. His partnership with Arrieta has been especially potent, but Higuain was quick to spread the credit around.
“It’s not just one or two players that are going to make a difference,” Higuain said. “For sure, I have a lot of confidence right now, but that’s with the help of the teammates and the coaching staff.”
The guy isn’t just doing everything right, he’s saying everything right too. The Crew may have just discovered Schelotto’s successor.