After two weeks of minimal training that peaked at jogging laps around the practice field, Columbus Crew forward Federico Higuain's status for Saturday's match against the New England Revolution (7:30 pm ET; MLS Live) is still in doubt.
Higuain picked up a hip contusion in the early stages of Columbus's 1-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City on October 5, and the team's Designated Player spent much of the match limping around the pitch, and had last week off of training. Crew interim head coach Brian Bliss said that the decision may be left in Higuain's hands.
“The doctors said it's kind of his own personal threshold type of thing," Bliss told reporters on Friday at training. "[The team doctor] isn't saying [Higuain] can play, he's not saying he can't play. He said, 'Look, it's up to the individual in terms of his tolerance, threshold and mobility.'”
What Higuain's specific pain threshold might be is in some doubt, but he gritted through a full 90 minutes with the injury against Sporting KC, and Bliss said that Higuain indicated he wanted to play again.
“We just talked briefly, and straight line running seems to be OK. But the turning and twisting is obviously sending pain up the nerve,” Bliss said. “But he knows that's going to happen when he turns and twists. He says he feels – I wouldn't say great – but he says he feels OK.”
Higuain spent Friday's short training session running around the pitch, and though he wasn't doing any intense work, Bliss thought the Argentinian seemed to be improving.
“He's doing all right. I was watching out of the corner of my eye, and he was whipping around the field pretty well,” Bliss said. “Obviously we didn't throw him into the mix with the guys for contact reasons, but he looked okay running around the outside of the field.”
Despite the importance of Saturday's trip to New England, Bliss said that the team won't put pressure on Higuain to return if he's not ready, even though the match is an ultimate must-win.
“You never want to put the player's personal injury status in jeopardy or make it worse, whether it's game 13 or 32,” he said. “Obviously the stakes are a little bit higher and sometimes guys are willing to stick a little more pain behind them in certain instances like this, but I'm not going to pressure him and the club's not pressuring him.”
Fortunately for the Crew, the team will be taking a charter flight to New England Friday, which will give them more time to deliberate on Higuain's status. While Bliss could not commit to Higuain making the trip, he said that the team would be taking “a couple extra” players, and not just the 18 that will be active for Saturday.
“We have a charter, so we have the luxury of a flight-time decision, I guess,” Bliss said. “So we can wait all the way up until the last minute, as opposed to having a commercial, where you have to have everything cleared 24 hours in advance and all that. So we caught a bit of a break, having us be on the charter.”