Another season is upon Columbus Crew SC maestro Federico Higuain. Coming off a very productive 2018 season where he saw much success, eight goals and 10 assists in regular season and postseason games, the 34-year-old Argentinian is looking for much of the same this time around.
“I’m not a very explosive player so I believe the risks (of injury for me) are a little bit lower,” Higuain said. “It’s part of my game to play a little bit slower and sometimes attack the balls. Most of the time I’m trying to find a player and make the next play.”
Pipa, as Higuain is affectionately known, has enjoyed quite a healthy career, especially in Columbus. His most games missed in a full season (15) as a starter came in 2016, where he underwent groin surgery and dealt with stomach issues. Since then, he’s only missed a total of 10 games due to injury, a remarkable feat considering he is consistently the target of the opposition.
Higuain’s value to the club is unheralded, and newly-appointed Crew head coach Caleb Porter understands that. He knows the value the playmaker adds to his group and, although he realizes there will be times to rest him, believes that mismanaging Pipa and his minutes early on can set the team back for the long term.
“We won’t manage him differently now because that would be a mistake,” Porter said. “He won’t be ready to go. Midseason, would we? Depends. Those are the times of the year you have to be careful.”
Porter is a long-time fan of Higuain, admiring him from afar when he was with the Portland Timbers from 2013-17 and even during his one year away from coaching. But the feelings go both ways as Pipa is already a supporter of his new head coach.
“He has a very clear idea to be at this club, a competitive club. As a player, we want to support his idea,” Higuain said. “We can see he’s a guy who can make us a better club. As a player, that’s a good feeling. He wants to make us a better team and we will support him of course.”
For as old-fashioned as Higuain may be — for instance, not taking part in any specific offseason training regiments — he considers everything he does. In regards to his play style, he believes in his ability. Being able to change up his tempo and almost “flip a switch” is a big part of him staying healthy.
Higuain understands his value to the team on the pitch but knows he is a leader off it as well. For newcomers such as JJ Williams, Robinho and Aboubacar Keita, Pipa understands the importance of acclimating new players to the team.
“All the new guys are amazing. Good pros, good qualities,” Higuain said. “They’re hungry, so that’s good for the team when you see new faces when you (get to) know new faces. They bring something from outside new to the club so that is always good. For sure they will help us. They’re good and they will play.”
Higuain turns 35 in October, so it’s unclear just how much longer he can remain at the top of his game and maintain his productivity. However, being about as laser-focused as ever, Pipa doesn’t seem to be phased one bit by the prospect of getting old or slowing down.
“I’m training hard,” Higuain said. “I would like to play a good season and I’m going to try as hard as I can. I try to train (hard) every single day.”