August 19, 2012, isn’t a day that would stand out to most Columbus Crew SC fans. But maybe it should.
On that day, Federico Higuain, fresh off becoming the Black & Gold’s first Designated Player following his signing less than a month earlier, made his Crew debut. He did so by coming off the bench against the Houston Dynamo and doing something that would become so familiar to Columbus fans that it doesn’t even stand out to them any more: he registered an assist, a go-ahead goal to Eddie Gaven just after halftime.
A little under seven years later and Higuain is still registering assists for the Crew. On Wednesday night, in a 3-1 win over the LA Galaxy Higuain became the team’s all-time assist leader, passing club legend Robert Warzycha, who held the record for almost two decades, with 62 total assists.
The assist came on the opening goal of the game when Higuain sprayed the ball forward and wide, finding winger Robinho. The Brazilian’s cross was touched home by forward Gyasi Zardes and Higuain was credited with a secondary assist, giving him the all-time record.
“He’s a really, really special player. And on top of that, he’s a really special guy,” head coach Caleb Porter said of Higuain after the match. “Great character. One of the best pros I’ve ever worked with. Top-notched. Honest, works hard, shows up every day and that’s pretty rare for a talent like him.”
From Porter, a coach who has been around soccer for a long while at various levels, those words are high praise for a special player.
But it’s not just assists that Higuain provides the Crew game after game. Just last year, Higuain reached the 50-50 club after recording 50 goals and 50 assists with for the team, becoming just the 19th player in Major League Soccer to reach that mark.
In addition to notching the assist, Higuain added a tally of his own to double the lead, breaking through the Galaxy defense and ripping a shot past David Bingham. The play was setup by forward Gyasi Zardes, who is usually a player on the end of Higuain’s passes. This time it was the other way around.
“He knows where all his teammates are every time he gets the ball,” Zardes said of Higuain. “I’m just thankful to be here for that huge accomplishment of his and I’m looking forward to more of his assists and goals.”
Not only did the assist mean something to the Argentine midfielder, but it meant something to the club also. The record-breaking helper lifted the goal drought the team faced. Although the Crew was credited with a goal in the 3-1 loss to D.C. United last Saturday, it came as own goal from Bill Hamid. The last time Columbus scored prior to that was in a 3-1 loss to the Portland Timbers three matches before.
Higuain’s assist, and his goal that came later, helped lift the Black & Gold from a five-game losing streak and help instill some confidence back in the team.
”It was very important for us,” the midfielder said of the win. “We’ve been working hard to get three points but we couldn’t get it. I think it was a good performance by the team. This is football. You don’t have too much time to celebrate it.”
As has been the case since August 19, 2012, when he registered his first assist, Higuain did not want to talk about himself following the match. Despite setting a record for a club he loves, the maestro was more excited about the win and moving forward with the 2019 season.
“Of course it’s an honor, but I never go very deep in the stats,” he said. “I believe more in an idea of collective football. I really believe in the confidence that I have in my teammates, the confidence that they gave me too to play football. That is football for me.”