Though the Columbus Crew let a win slip away in Houston on Sunday evening, they can take solace in knowing that Federico Higuaín's debut was a rousing success.
Higuaín (above, center), the Crew’s third Designated Player in club history, entered to start the second half and assisted on the go-ahead goal by Eddie Gaven 13 minutes later. After ex-Crew midfielder Andy Moffat tied the match, Higuaín bent a 25-yard free kick just outside the left upright in the 84th minute that would have enabled his team to retake the lead.
GOAL: Higuaín sets up Gaven
“I thought it was in when it first left his foot,” Gaven said of the late chance in a phone interview with MLSsoccer.com.
Instead, the Crew (8-8-5) had to settle for a 2-2 tie.
“From those 45 minutes it’s pretty obvious he can play,” midfielder Cole Grossman said by phone. “When you have a guy who can combine like that and has really good vision it adds another dimension. Hopefully, we can learn to play with him and his strengths.”
Higuaín, who signed June 27 but because of visa problems didn’t arrive in Columbus until hours before Wednesday’s 1-1 tie at home vs. Los Angeles, had only three days of training but fit in from the onset.
“My first game went very well,” he said to the media in Houston afterward. “I felt very comfortable on the field.
“We just keep going along, trying to get to know each other... I feel that we are going in a good direction.”
He had an aggressive dribble and shot in the 48th minute, forcing Tally Hall into a save. Then he was part of a box-to-box counterattack that made it 2-1 after a Brad Davis and Cole Grossman traded first half goals.
Defender Sebastián Miranda got the play moving and Higuaín had a series of combinations with Jairo Arrieta and Chris Birchall before freeing Gaven to finish with a perfectly-weighted pass.
“It was a really good ball he played over the top to me,” Gaven said. “He looked like he had trained with us weeks on end. I’m glad he made a huge impact.”