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Celebrating Pipa: Federico Higuain, Kei Kamara and the penalty kick dispute

It wasn’t a good look for either player and likely a low point in fans’ memories of Higuain.

Kei Kamara (left) and Federico Higuain (right) argue over who should take a penalty kick.
Sam Fahmi - Massive Report

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.

Throughout this week, Massive Report (along with other outlets) have looked back at the Columbus Crew career of Federico Higuain in advance of the midfielder signing a one-day contract to retire as a member of the Black & Gold. Nearly all the fans’ memories of Higuain are positive, but not all.

One negative moment of Higuain’s Crew career that comes to mind for any who witnessed it is the infamous penalty kick dispute with former teammate Kei Kamara during an early May game against the Montreal Impact. This occurred early in the 2016 season when Columbus was struggling to find its footing, despite playing the MLS Cup Final just months before. Nine games into the season, the Crew was 2-4-2 and on the verge of the wheels falling off early on.

The Crew led 2-1 at halftime thanks to two first half goals by Kamara and were up three goals in the 53rd minute. The team blew that three-goal lead to draw 4-4 at Historic Crew Stadium.

That was bad enough. But what the match is remembered for is the penalty kick dispute.

Winger Justin Meram was taken down in the penalty area in the 51st minute, which resulted in a spot kick for Columbus. Kamara took the ball to take the kick, looking for his first career hat trick, when Higuain started to have a conversation with him. It was a discussion that lasted an elongated minute, that then-captain Michael Parkhurst had to step in to settle the dispute.

“I just said, ‘Let’s just get on with it guys. This is embarrassing for the team. Let’s just sort it out,’ and it was sorted out,” Parkhurst said at the time.

The issue stemmed from having no designated penalty kick taker. At the time, head coach Gregg Berhalter said he let the players sort it out, which was a mistake in retrospect. Higuain claimed he wanted to give the attempt to winger Ethan Finlay, who had struggled to get going to start the season.

The dispute eventually was sorted out and Higuain took the kick and converted the penalty. There was frustration on the face of Kamara and ecstasy for Higuain as Columbus had punished Montreal yet again.

That finish put the home team up 4-1, but it was clear there were more issues than just a bad start to the season. The Impact took advantage, scoring four and five minutes later before grabbing the equalizer — courtesy of former Crew forward Dominic Oduro — in stoppage time.

Following the game, Kamara was vocal about his issues with Higuain, saying that he didn’t need him to score goals. Even after a few days to calm down, Kamara did not back down from his statements and was subsequently suspended one game by Berhalter.

While not without his fault in the incident, Higuain did not say much when put in front of reporters. The Crew elected to keep him, while Kamara was traded to the New England Revolution five days after the game.

Other Pipa moments

Higuain’s first Crew match

The first “Pipa Chip”

2016 bicycle kick vs. Portland