COLUMBUS, Ohio – At some point on Sunday, new Designated Player Federico Higuain is expected to make his Columbus Crew debut against the Dynamo (9 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
But coach Robert Warzycha is still undecided if Higuain will move directly into the first XI in Houston after arriving from his native Argentina on Wednesday.
“I’m not sure if he’s ready for 90 minutes, but we’re going to have to make a decision whether it’s starting or putting him on the bench,” Warzycha told MLSsoccer.com on Friday.
The Crew manager must factor the toll the heat and humidity will take on his team and whether he wants to risk going into a match knowing he may have to burn one substitute if Higuain starts.
The forward will have just three days of training with Columbus prior to the match after working out with his former team Club Atletico Colon during their preseason while final negotiations with the Crew continued. After signing on July 27, he trained on his own but by all accounts is fit.
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“I hope to be on the field Sunday,” Higuain told MLSsoccer.com. "If not, then maybe Wednesday [vs. Toronto FC]."
The forward certainly made an impression on the Crew when, upon landing in Columbus, he immediately sought out a health club.
“I’m a professional player,” Higuain said. "I understand football is a high intensity sport and I need to be prepared."
That’s good news for a Crew side (8-8-4) that could use his attacking talents. After a 1-1 draw with the LA Galaxy on Wednesday, they are still scoring exactly one goal per game.
“What we need is a spark and I hope he brings it,” midfielder Dilly Duka said. “He seems like my type of player. He’s quick, he’s technical and he likes to play. He does have that change of speed. I hope he comes in and gets adjusted to the league really quick. Over time, he’ll help us.”
The Crew have recently employed a 4-2-3-1 formation with Jairo Arrieta as the lone striker. In the past four games he has been involved in every goal, tallying three goals and an assist.
Higuain will either team up top with Arrieta, who joined Columbus from Costa Rica in late June, or play behind him.
“I like to play close to the goal because I like to score or help the team score by assisting them,” Higuain said.
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Warzycha said Higuain’s role will be fluid, but emphasized that the Argentine would be deployed in familiar positions where he can find space and time on the ball.
One of the players likely to be feeding Higuain, midfielder Milovan Mirosevic, said he is anxious to get their partnership off the group and suspects it won’t take long for the pair to click, just as he and Arrieta have done.
“He’s very good with the ball,” Mirosevic said. “That way we can do some good combinations. We hope he can help with the scoring because that’s been a great issue for us.”