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.
The 2013 Columbus Crew season was the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. On July 30, 2013, Clark Hunt, the son of league pioneer Lamar Hunt, sold his investor-operator rights to the Crew to Precourt Sports Ventures. On Sept. 3, 2013, the Black & Gold fired head coach, and former team legend, Robert Warzycha after almost five years at the helm.
On the field, Columbus took a dip. After finishing 10th in the overall table in 2012, the Crew ended the 2013 campaign all the way at 16th.in the standings. While the guard was changing on multiple fronts, one moment happened in the month between the Black & Gold’s two big personnel changes. Higuaín introduced supporters to what became known as the “Pipa Chip.”
Higuaín entered the year coming off a 2012 debut season that won him the MLS Newcomer of the Year award. On Aug. 10, 2013, Columbus welcomed the New York Red Bulls to Historic Crew Stadium. The Red Bulls were without soccer legend Thierry Henry that day, but there was still world-class goal scoring on display.
The Crew won the game 2-0 thanks to one of Higuaín’s eight multi-goal games with the Black & Gold, but this came after a scoreless first half. New York goalkeeper Luis Robles and Crew shot-stopper Matt Lampson kept zeroes on the scoreboard until the second half when Higuaín added his first goal of the night via a penalty kick.
On a corner kick in the 61st minute, Robles went for a punch on the ball but instead hit a Crew player. Higuaín buried the resulting penalty kick, but the real highlight came 15 minutes later.
The play began with winger Justin Meram dispossessing the opponent near midfield. After winning the ball on a toe-poke tackle, Higuaín received a pass and passed and played a ball to rookie Wil Trapp. The Gahanna, Ohio native, and eventual Crew captain, sent in a low pass to a charging Higuaín down the right sideline.
Before entering the penalty area, with Robles coming forward out of his net, Higuaín chipped Trapp’s only assist of the season over the goalkeeper’s head. There was nothing Robles could do about the attempt but sink in his standing position in defeat. The Black * Gold sealed their victory and a type of shot henceforth known as the “Pipa Chip” was born.
This play is a shot that Higuaín continued throughout the remaining six seasons in Black & Gold. Higuaín sent in his chipped attempts from outside the 18-yard box and sometimes from the penalty spot itself. This included a “Pipa Chip” in 2015 that put Higuaín in the running for MLS Goal of the Year.
While Higuaín wasn’t a player who raced down the field for the entire 90 minutes of a match, his creativity with the ball and soccer instincts made him a constant threat to opponents. By the end of the 2013 season, Higuaín’s 11 goals and nine assists were his best goal-scoring season in black and gold, and the Argentinian was well on his way to being the first Crew player to join the 50-50 club with 50 goals and 50 assists.