Columbus Crew SC’s difficult 2019 season suffered another blow on Friday, and this is a major one. The club announced that attacking midfielder Federico Higuain will undergo Anterior Cruciate Ligament reconstruction surgery and is likely to miss the remainder of the 2019 season.
The injury occurred during the Crew’s latest game, a 3-2 loss to the Colorado Rapids. Higuain went down in the penalty box after a rough tackle from a Colorado defender just before midfielder Pedro Santos scored in the 28th minute to tie the game at 1-1. This may have been when the injury initially occurred. The midfield maestro remained in the game through halftime before he was replaced by forward Patrick Mullins in the 67th minute.
Higuain, 34, joined the team in July of 2012 in a transfer from Argentine team Colon as a Designated Player. He was named the MLS Newcomer of the Year after playing in just 13 games that season.
The Argentine playmaker has played in 193 regular season games, including 184 starts, since joining the team. This season, he surpassed midfield legend Robert Warzycha to become the Crew’s all-time assist leader with 63. He’s the team’s third all-time leading goal scorer with 55 finishes. In addition to his scoring exploits, he is in the top 10 in team history in games played, games started, minutes played, shots and game0winning goals. Higuain is the longest tenured player on the roster.
The Crew has dealt with a litany of injuries in 2019. The Black & Gold are currently without four fullbacks after Milton Valenzuela tore his ACL in preseason, Harrison Afful broke his jaw in the 2-0 win over Atlanta United on March 30, Waylon Francis suffered a thigh injury in training on May 10, the day before the 3-0 loss to Los Angeles Football Club and Hector Jimenez suffered a concussion against the Rapids. Goalkeeper Zack Steffen has also missed time due to injury but returned to play against Colorado.
Higuain’s injury is by far the most devastating for a Black & Gold team with no natural replacement for the midfielder. Higuain has been the catalyst for the Columbus attack since joining the club and will be difficult to replace. Even with Higuain on the field, the Crew have struggled to score goals this year, scoring just 14 times in 15 matches, second-worst in Major League Soccer.
After beginning the 2019 season brightly with a 4-1-1 record through the first five games, the Black & Gold have struggled to find results. Columbus lost five consecutive games between April 13 and May 4 before a 3-1 win against the LA Galaxy appeared to right the ship. But three straight losses since that victory have seen hopes of a turnaround disappear.
The news that the team will likely be without Higuain for the rest of the year makes the task of righting the ship that much more difficult.