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D.C. United signs former Columbus Crew captain Federico Higuain

After years of success against United, Pipa is coming to the District as a player/coach

MLS: Columbus Crew at Orlando City SC Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

D.C. United has bolstered their attack by signing former Columbus Crew playmaker Federico Higuain. The 35-year-old Argentine, whose brother Gonzalo currently plays for Juventus, arrives as a free agent after eight seasons with the Crew, where he is regarded as a club legend. Higuain has long held a green card, and will not require an international roster spot.

United’s interest was first reported by The Athletic’s Pablo Maurer, while the Washington Post’s Steve Goff added that United plans on signing Higuain as a player/coach.

Higuain’s place in Columbus lore is secure thanks to both his skill, and the fact that he was indisputably prolific. Arriving in 2012, Higuain went on to post 55 goals and 63 assists in 193 regular season appearances, plus 4 goals and 5 assists in 14 playoff appearances. Higuain was captain for much of his time with the Crew, leading the team to the 2015 MLS Cup final and playoff wins in 2017 and, notoriously for United fans, in 2018.

In recent years, Higuain has become a bit less of a goal threat, and a bit more of an old-school set-up man. While he had two straight 11-goal seasons in 2013 and 2014, in the last three years his numbers have tilted heavily towards assists (16 goals, 28 assists). In particular, his set piece taking remains a major threat to opposing teams.

However, Higuain tore his ACL on May 25, 2019, and Caleb Porter’s plans for this year apparently center more on a transition-based style of play. Columbus opted to move on from one of their all-time greats as a result, opening the door for United to sign him.

The Black-and-Red had also made clear during the offseason that they were looking to expand the coaching staff, which appears to be a factor in their move to sign Higuain. Entering his 18th season as a professional, Higuain has played for big clubs in Argentina (River Plate), Turkey (Besiktas), and Mexico (Club America), not to mention extensive experience under USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter.

For United, Higuain projects as a player who can start from time to time, but will more likely see action in the final half-hour of games. His creativity and technical skill, combined with his sense of how to change the tempo of a game, could make him an excellent weapon off the bench for United, whose squad doesn’t quite have anyone like the Argentine veteran.

Adding Higuain brings United up to 24 players, with Estonian forward Erik Sorga made official hours before the season opener. The club currently has defenders Jonathan Campell and Kevin Garcia on trial as well, and will likely continue building the roster through the end of the transfer window on May 5.