Editor’s note: On Saturday, the Crew will honor Federico Higuaín. The former midfielder, affectionately known as Pipa, is signing a one-day contract to officially retire as a member of the Black & Gold. To honor the midfielder, Massive Report will spend this week sharing moments of Higuaín’s career with the Crew.
In 2012, the Columbus Crew was three years removed from winning the team’s first MLS Cup title. While the 2011 season saw the Black & Gold get back into the MLS Cup playoffs, the end of the year brought changes in the roster.
Midfielder, and a member of the MLS Cup-winning team, Robbie Rogers left the club for England’s Leeds United after fives seasons in Columbus. Forward Andrés Mendoza, the team’s leading scorer the year prior, departed. Forward Jeff Cunningham was also let go after his second stint with the club yielded just two goals.
The result was a Crew side that struggled to score. By the end of July, the Black & Gold managed just 18 goals through 21 matches as the team struggled through the season with just eight wins to that point.
On July 27, the Crew made a signing to help improve those numbers. Higuaín joined for a reported then club record fee of $650,000 after a career that already included stops in Mexico with Club América and Beşiktaş in Turkey, after coming up through River Plate’s youth system in his native Argentina. He was the Black & Gold’s third-ever Designated Player.
Higuaín made his debut on Aug. 19, 2012, on a trip to take on the Houston Dynamo. Columbus sat in a disappointing 12th place in the MLS standings and Houston didn’t make it any easier. In the 19th minute, the Crew went down 1-0. Cole Grossman pulled the Black & Gold level in the 33rd minute, but it was the second half that went down as the first memory of Higuaín’s time with Columbus.
The Argentinian came into the match as a halftime substitute replacing another Crew fan favorite in Justin Meram. It didn’t take long for Higuaín to make his presence known for his new club.
In the 58th minute, the Argentine won possession in the Black & Gold’s defensive half. After a quick pass to his right, the ball came back to Higuaín who didn’t hesitate in chipping a pass into the offensive half of the field to a charging Eddie Gaven. The midfielder finished clinically on a pass that foreshadowed Higuaín’s career in MLS. Although it isn’t as widely remembered, Higuain also received his first MLS yellow card, going into the referee’s book in the 79th minute of the match.
The Dynamo came back to earn a 2-2 draw that night, but Higuaín registered his first MLS assist in his first match as a member of the Crew. Higuain went on to add 68 more assists and 59 goals in the next seven years in black and gold.
Over the rest of his debut season, Higuaín scored five goals and had seven assists. However, his play in facilitating 13 goals in 13 appearances in 2012 didn’t propel the Crew to any postseason glory. By season’s end, the Black & Gold moved up two spots in the standings in an era of Crew soccer that never matched the skill that Higuaín brought to the club.
Fortunately, Higuain would help Columbus to bigger and better things during his time with the club. Over this week, Massive Report will highlight more moments from Higuain’s career before he is honored on Saturday prior to the Nashville SC game.