Following a 3-0 win over FC Cincinnati to cap off an unbeaten preseason, Columbus Crew SC head coach Caleb Porter spoke on the freedom the wingers displayed in Saturday's match, and how life on the pitch is always a little bit easier with Federico Higuain in Black & Gold.
“I thought the wingers were outstanding, full of life, confidence,” Porter said. “They helped us keep the ball, but they also showed some creativity and they showed some penetration, opportunities to penetrate.”
Midfielders Justin Meram and Pedro Santos started on the right and left sides, respectively, as the Crew dominated possession and chance creation, particularly through the opening 30 minutes. A combination from Higuain and Santos created the first scoring opportunity in the 4th minute thanks to a calm far-post finish from Gyasi Zardes from about eight yards out.
The play established the tone early and set an example of the counter-pressure the Crew have worked on since Porter’s arrival, with Higuain’s presence marking a cornerstone on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
“And I thought, honestly, the game is so easy for us with Pipa,” Porter said after the match. “Higuain, you know, I see lists – top-five 10’s in the League – for me he is easily, easily in the top five in the League, you know, number 10’s.”
With a quick entry pass from Wil Trapp to the top of the box, Santos laid it off first-time for Higuain on a lateral ball, lulling Zardes’ defender as the striker snuck behind the line and finished with his first of two goals on the day.
“The way he creates triangles, the way he keeps the ball, the way he looks for final balls, he’s our straw that stirs the drink and he’s one of the best I’ve seen,” Porter said.
With the win, the Crew claimed the Carolina Challenge Cup title for the third straight year and ended preseason with a 3-0-3 record, including a 2-0-1 record against MLS teams.
Up next for the Black & Gold is the home opener on Saturday, March 2, as Crew SC prepares to host the New York Red Bulls at MAPFRE Stadium with kickoff slated for 4:30 p.m. ET.