Anyone who has been following Columbus Crew SC recently knows that a special time of year has arrived. With the Black & Gold advancing to the playoffs in four of the last five seasons, a nice postseason trend is happening again in 2018 – it’s time to see the best out of Federico Higuain.
The veteran attacking midfielder has been a stud for Crew SC when playoff time comes and it seems the team will be able to count on every inch of talent from its maestro, as Higuain was pivotal in the Black & Gold’s progression to the Eastern Conference semifinals by scoring a brace and converting his penalty kick against D.C. United on Thursday.
“When you look over the course of his time here, he’s been a guy that in big games, performs,” head coach Gregg Berhalter said. “This is a time of the year when he really shines. And he does it on both sides of the ball. I think there’s a natural tension in playoffs games, especially knockout games. Either your season is done or you keep playing. And he responds well to that.”
More than his production, what really impresses about Pipa’s playoff version is his energy and commitment. When postseason starts, the 34-year-old Argentinean seems to receive a special load of energy that makes him endure the toughness of 120-minute matches as if he was a teenager.
And to see the most talented player on the roster and one of the most skilled in the entire league giving everything he has for the team is the most powerful piece of motivation to his Crew SC teammates.
“Pipa thrives in the playoffs, he really does,” team captain Wil Trapp stated. “He steps up defensively, offensively — he scored two wonderful goals for us, very timely. And his effort is just incredible. For being the quality player he is, the amount of tireless work he puts in is truly incredible, and when you see a guy like that doing it, it breeds confidence for the rest of the group.”
But for him, it’s just about keep going forward. With the usual team-first approach that has been another trend of his seven seasons with the club, Higuain is just concerned about winning and making it to the next round.
After all, that’s what soccer is all about for him.
“For me, it’s just advance,” Higuain added. ”It’s for everybody in this locker room. We don’t care about who scored, we don’t care who played good or who played bad. We know we can play good, we can play bad, but in this moment, we can’t be soft. That is our goal: Attack the games with all that we have.”
At 34, Pipa’s physical condition for Sunday’s game against the New York Red Bulls after playing 120 minutes on Thursday night could be a concern to many, but not to Berhalter, who has been working with him for five seasons now.
The coach just knows that when Sunday comes, he’ll be ready.
“Pipa could do whatever he wants (to recover),” Berhalter commented. “It’s a mindset thing with him. When you look at that performance, he was the oldest guy on the field and his work rate was among the highest. It’s impressive.”
Let the magic continue!