Higuain breaks out after last season's Kamara feud
A year ago this week, Federico Higuain stepped up to take a penalty for Columbus Crew SC. Columbus was at home nursing a 3-1 lead against Montreal. Teammate Kei Kamara had notched two goals and was in position to secure his first career hat trick.
An ugly argument ensued over who'd take the PK. There were the Crew's two Designated Players, having it out in front of the world. Ultimately, Higuain shot and scored while Kamara fumed.
Bad vibes followed: A 4-1 Columbus lead devolved into a shocking 4-4 draw, after which Kamara complained to the media about Higuain: “That's selfishness. That's not a teammate.”
Within days it became clear Higuain and Kamara could not coexist, so Columbus did the unthinkable, trading team MVP Kamara to New England. And although Coach Gregg Berhalter indicated the move was based on more than just the PK incident, it read like a referendum on which DP the Crew was willing to build around.
They chose right. In recent weeks Higuain has been reminding us why.
Two weekends ago, he scored on an astonishing half-volley against New York City FC. Later in the match, he dummied a pass from Ethan Finlay to giftwrap a shot for Ola Kamara, essentially creating a goal without touching the ball.
The Crew lost that match, but Higuain's performance was electrifying. He struck again the following Saturday, burying a gorgeous finish to complete a 2-0 victory versus New England. The two-game scoring streak was tangible evidence of Higuain's intangible impact this year: Crew SC has played better, more exciting soccer with him on the pitch. He's looking like a star again.
Higuain has shined before, but often in other players' shadows. His younger brother, Gonzalo, has played for elite European clubs and represented Argentina in two World Cups; Federico has not. And when Higuain arrived in Columbus five years ago, comparisons to the Crew's prior Argentine midfield maestro Guillermo Barros Schelotto were inevitable — comparisons that become more unflattering each year Higuain falls short of Schelotto's MVP-winning 2008 championship campaign.
At age 32, Higuain's time to lead Columbus to glory is running out. After an injury-addled 2016, it was unclear whether he could regain the creative flair and relentless hustle that first ingratiated him here. But as those two recent contests demonstrated, he's back in a big way, perhaps ready to move permanently out of eclipse.