COLUMBUS, Ohio – Jairo Arrieta has given the Columbus Crew offense a real boost with three goals, including one vs. the Galaxy on Wednesday night, to go with an assist in five games since his arrival from Costa Rica.
His play has quelled criticism about some other recent Crew acquisitions, most notably countryman Olman Vargas. The highly touted January signing was expected to help offset the loss of Andrés Mendoza – the Peruvian scored 13 goals last season – but Vargas’ only tally came in the second game and he didn’t dress for Wednesday's match.
The arrival of Argentine forward Federico Higuaín as the club's newest Designated Player means the depth chart is now overflowing. Higuaín is expected to partner Arrieta up top, with Emilio Rentería, Aaron Schoenfeld and Vargas in reserve.
Arrieta's still the first name on that list, though. He's been as good as technical director Brian Bliss expected when he was signed in April.
“He’s a streaky goal scorer if you look at his career,” Bliss told MLSsoccer.com
The Crew TD likes the possible pairing of Arrieta and Higuaín.
“The two guys will complement each other and maybe that final pass will come and create a few more opportunities,” Bliss said.
Crew president Mark McCullers was touched by the family of Kirk Urso attending Wednesday’s match as the organization paid tribute to the rookie midfielder who died unexpectedly Aug. 5.
The team and many staff attended the funeral last Saturday in Urso’s hometown of Lombard, Ill.
“We didn’t know until the day before the game that they were going to come,” McCullers said. “In the initial time I met with them after Kirk’s death one of the things his mom said was, ‘It’s been such a big part of our lives.’
“I said, ‘It still can be a big part of your lives. You’re always going to be connected to this organization and you’re always welcome here.’”
McCullers doesn’t anticipate that Urso’s No. 15 will be retired but, “I think it will be awhile before you see somebody wear that number.”
Higuaín was asked about wearing No. 33 for the Crew.
“The number’s pretty high," he said. "I’m a religious person, and 33’s the age Jesus Christ died so that’s the reason I have the number for the rest of the season.”
He said through translator/Crew assistant coach Ricardo Iribarren that he prefers No. 8.
“He’s going to have to fight [midfielder Chris] Birchall for it,” Iribarren joked.
As Higuaín finished an interview at his first press conference Thursday morning at Crew Stadium, coach Robert Warzycha nudged Iribarren and told him they had to get Higuaín to the Obetz training facility immediately for practice.
As Warzycha hustled his newest player out the door he smiled and said, “He can’t be late. I don’t want to fine him his first day.”