The Crew will have both of the team's most valuable players tomorrow night against Chivas USA. Federico Higuain's toe contusion has healed and he is ready to play. Andy Gruenebaum avoided any permanent damage from his inadvertent rendezvous with the post on Saturday. Sitting outside the playoffs, the black and gold need both for the final six games.
Gruenebaum could be seen as the team's MVP through the first half of the season. Thrust into the starting spot due to Hesmer's injury, he's been a bright spot for a Crew team that lacked any flash. His highlight reel saves kept the Crew near the playoffs as the offense stagnated.
Even with Gruenebaum leading the league in saves and setting a career high in shutouts, the Crew were 8 points out by mid-August after treading water in June and July. Columbus bore more resemblance to the Dan Kennedy lead Chivas USA than a Cup contender.
It was obvious, while defense may win championships, it's probably assumed that the team would also score. That couldn't be said for the team pre-Higuain. The arrival of the DP signaled a Crew team that played with offensive swagger. Goals followed.
The Argentine transformed a unimaginative offense into one that was a threat to score on the counter, breaking down a team, or off of set pieces. Even during a grueling stretch of games, Columbus made up ground. The defense played well enough, but the offense stole the show for the first time in several years.
Even they share little in common, Gruenebaum a goalkeeper and one of the longest tenured players on the team and Higuain, the mid season transfer, they are both newcomers in a sense.
Gruenebaum has been here since 2006, but he just happened to get stuck behind a very good goalkeeper in William Hesmer. It was a long road to being a starter. Higuain hit the ground running. Both seized their fresh starts to make a giant impact.
Columbus is two points behind D.C. United for the last playoff spot with six to play. Everyone will need to step up, but the Crew have two MVPs that will share the burden to rally a team in need of points to get to the playoffs.