As the week went on, it became better and better for the Columbus Crew, who finished with a flurry by winning 2-1 at Sporting Kansas City on Saturday.
Along the way, they beat England’s Stoke City in a friendly last Tuesday in Crew Stadium with Homegrown products Aaron Horton and Ben Speas scoring late goals. Then, on Friday they signed long-sought Argentine forward Federico Higuaín to a multi-year contract as the third Designated Player in club history.
It was also a good period for Crew technical director Brian Bliss. A day after the Higuaín signing that he engineered, Bliss coached the Crew Juniors U-19 team to their second McGuire Cup in three years at the US Youth Soccer National Championships. The Juniors defeated Georgia’s GSA Phoenix Red 2-1 in Rock Hill, S.C., by mirroring the senior club’s performance at SKC by falling behind before rallying on goals from Hugh Pringle and Will Trapp.
While that game was in progress, Bliss was unable to watch the Crew tally twice from recent addition Jairo Arrieta (above), who was named Week 21's Player of the Week by the North American Soccer Reporters.
HIGHLIGHTS: SKC 1, CLB 2
Arrieta was acquired in April, but the Costa Rican forward wasn’t available until the transfer window opened June 27. Arrieta has played three games and has two goals and an assist in the past two to provide a boost for a team that prior to Saturday averaged a meager one goal per game.
“It’s tough to come into a new environment and play games right off the bat,” goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum said. “[Arrieta has] done a great job. He’s made an impact in the last two games. It’s a great addition to have someone like him who can finish.”
Head coach Robert Warzycha thinks it was only a coincidence that Arrieta opened his goal account right after Higuaín was obtained.
“I don’t think signing anybody was motivation for him,” he said. “Arrieta’s a good a player. He does his job well.”
Arrieta tied the match with a run off a pass from Josh Williams before slotting the ball home, and then buried the winner in the 34th minute with a blistering 30-yard strike.
“The two goals were first class,” Warzycha said. “That second one was unbelievable.”
The “left back curse” almost caught Williams. With Bernardo Añor out for the year after suffering a knee injury July 14 and Nemanja Vukovic going down for a month following an ankle sprain against Stoke City, the Crew have little depth at that position.
When Williams went to the ground in the 77th minute Saturday holding his left ankle there was reason for concern. However, he waved off assistance and quickly returned to his feet to finish the match.
“I thought, ‘Who’s going take my spot?’” Williams said. “I didn’t see anybody so I had to get up.”
The Crew have 12 points in 10 road games (3-4-3) after getting 15 in 17 (4-10-3) last season. They can match their 2011 total on Saturday at D.C. United (7:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online).