With the recent addition of Federico Higuaín, Columbus Crew head coach Robert Warzycha will soon have to find a spot in the lineup for the new Designated Player.
Higuaín (now wearing #33) will hopefully make his debut at Crew Stadium shortly after joining the team for next Wednesday’s game against the Los Angeles Galaxy.
In most of Higuaín’s highlight videos, he is positioned in the center of the field. The majority of his goals are from the top of the box. While being primarily right-footed, he seems to have a rather good left foot as well. His soccer pedigree is nowhere near that of Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s, but Higuaín appears to be the same mold of player as the Boca Juniors legend – creative, crafty, short, and Argentinian.
Recently, Columbus have been lining up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. This has lead a slight increase in attacking play over the past few weeks with more possession in the attacking third of the field. With Higuaín, I think the formation will shift slightly to more of a 4-4-1-1.
Jairo Arrieta has been the lone forward, a position he has played well in his short time with the team. He is near the top of the team’s goalscoring charts after only four games. The three attacking midfielders have consisted of Eddie Gaven in the center and Dilly Duka and Justin Meram on the wings. Higuaín will likely replace one of these three.
Duka has arguably been the Crew’s best player over recent weeks. His ability to beat defenders on the left wing and cut back to his right foot is unparalleled by any other player on the roster. Gaven, whose attacking play (or lack thereof) is sometimes frustrating, is still Mr. Consistent. He will always be solid, if unspectacular, on both ends of the field.
It is highly plausible that the odd-man out is Justin Meram. After scoring three goals in three games earlier in the season, Meram has cooled off slightly in recent times. While still one of the Crew’s more dangerous players in attack, Meram will probably be relegated to a role as a substitute. His shiftiness and ability to dribble at players will serve him better when going against tired defenders.
With that being said, I believe Gaven will slide over to the right wing, Duka will stay on the left, and Higuaín will play a somewhat more advanced role in the center. Here is the lineup I would prefer to see against Los Angeles (pending Higuaín’s status):
If more attacking prowess is needed late in the game, Meram, Emilio Renteria, and/or Tony Tchani would be the first players I would look toward. Meram can play any of the three attacking midfielder positions. Renteria can play the lone forward role, but I actually prefer his strength out wide on the right. Tchani is moderately more attack-minded than Chris Birchall and Milovan Mirosevic in the holding midfielder position.
Fans have been clamoring for more goals from the Crew. Maybe, just maybe, Higuaín is the missing cog in Columbus’ attacking wheel.