Four matches into the 2018 Major League Soccer regular season, four matches without a defeat (14 unbeaten dating back into the 2017 season) for Columbus Crew SC. On the heels of a 3-1 home victory over D.C. United on Saturday, the Black & Gold closed Week 4 atop the Eastern Conference table and have the pole position in the Supporters' Shield chase.
The early muscle flexing caught the eye of MLSsoccer.com, which announced its Team of the Week with five Crew SC representatives: Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter (coach), Federico Higuain (M), Cristian Martinez (M), Pedro Santos (M - bench) and Milton Valenzuela (D).
Higuain completed a trifecta of honors through Week 4, having contributed a pair of assists against D.C., he entered MLS's elite 50-goals and 50-assists club for his career — becoming just the 19th player in MLS history and the first to achieve the milestone exclusively with Columbus (only six 50/50 players have done so with just one club). He was also voted Acura Man of the Match for his performance.
He finished the match with 94 string-pulling passes and one shot (on-goal).
In the 40th minute, Higuain assisted off a corner kick — with the Nordecke chanting his name — to Ricardo Clark for the eventual game-winning goal. With the goal, Pipa joined Black & Gold legends Brian McBride and Jeff Cunningham — but his predecessors in the 50/50 club achieved their status with multiple clubs. With his second assist in the match — bringing his all-time total to 51 on a 42nd minute Santos icer — Higuain overtook Robert Warzycha as the Clubs all-time leader in regular-season game-winning assists with 17.
In a combination of career firsts, both Santos and Valenzuela opened their accounts with Crew SC — Valenzuela's 20th minute strike stands as his first professional goal.
Valenzuela completed 66 passes, including 36 in the attacking half (12 in the final third). He stood strong on the backline as well, making two tackles, a clearance and an interception.
Santos was equally efficient from all over the pitch. He was successful in 53 of his 81 attempted passes, achieving one take-on and making two tackles and two interceptions.
Martinez is quickly becoming a consistent fixture in Berhalter's starting XI, having started all four matches this season and doubling his previous career-high. His two assists against D.C. are the first two in his MLS career. He finished the match with 46 successful passes, a corner won and two interceptions.
In search of No. 15 in the club's current unbeaten run, Crew SC returns to MAPFRE Stadium to host the Vancouver Whitecaps on March 31 at 3 p.m. ET.