COLUMBUS – One celebrated his birthday in style, while the other added two highlight-reel free kicks to his resume. No matter how you look at it, Jairo Arrieta and Federico Higuain stole the show with their respective two-goal efforts in the Crew’s 4-3 victory against New England on Saturday.
And while Arrieta may have scored the winner just four minutes from time, it was Higuain’s pair of gorgeous free kicks that had people talking after the Argentine rallied Columbus from a two-goal deficit to a 3-2 halftime lead.
Even head coach Robert Warzycha seemed a bit surprised by the free-kick master class considering Higuain had passed on practicing dead-ball situations earlier in the week.
“Those ridiculous free kicks, I told the guys in the locker room, 'I practice [free kicks] almost every day. You can see me doing free kicks with Justin Meram and Emilio [Renteria],’” Warzycha said. “’Federico, he's just sitting on the side not doing free kicks with us. Look at today, he went over the there and scores two.' I'm like, 'Where the heck did that guy come from?' It's amazing to have talent like this.”
Fortunately for the Crew, Higuain hasn’t wasted any time showcasing that talent, scoring three goals and adding two assists in his first 193 minutes while contributing to two wins and a draw.
The same goes for Arrieta, who celebrated his 29th birthday by scoring the game-winning goal in the 86th minute to push the Crew (10-8-6) to a 2-0-2 mark in their past four games.
“It was a really good day to celebrate a birthday,” said the Costa Rican, who has five goals and two assists in his first eight games with the club. “It started, we were down 2-0 and we ended up winning the game. It was really good. We need it. We needed the three points. It was really important to score the goals, but it was more important for the team to get the three points.”
Those points put the Crew within four of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with a game in hand on D.C. United. And with exactly 10 games remaining in their hunt for a postseason berth, Warzycha knows Higuain, in particular, could be exactly Columbus need to fuel a run up the standings.
“I think – telling you the truth – I thought that we have a very good team and we needed a spark,” Warzycha said. “We needed a guy who would slip the ball to somebody or need the guy to do exactly what [Higuain] did: have a free kick from over here or have a shot from distance, link the midfielders with the forwards.
“Actually, I thought we were going to get that kind of guy and he was going to be very good, but he has a lot of success. But I have to say, the guys around him have been good too.”