Crew relying on new designated player

BY foxsports • August 19, 2012


As the Crew prepared for their Sunday night game, they also await the arrival of new Designated Player Federico Higuain. The Argentine midfielder is expected to be a creative force that has been lacking. With the team on the outside of the playoff picture, there are big expectations from the team's new big name (and big contract).
Looking back at the Crew's two previous Designated Players shows a mixed record. Guillermo Barros Schelotto had a long history of success before getting a pay raise to stay with the Crew. Andres Mendoza had a brief trial period before making the jump to Designated Player status the following year.
Schelotto was the first Designated Player in team history. Originally signed from Boca Juniors in April 2007, he was the maestro that led the team to victory in the 2008 MLS Cup while earning an MVP award.
Already 36 and a league veteran, Schelotto's performance was mixed during the '09 season, with the previously dynamic offense now struggling to score. He scored a team high 12 goals, but saw his assist output decline from a league high 19 in 2008 to only three. The 2009 Crew offense was a one man show, and they would be bounced from the playoffs in the first round.
Schelotto dropped from Designated Player status in 2010, his last with the Crew, but still led the team in both goals and assists. While 2009 was not his finest in black and gold, he still did more than enough to earn his lofty contract.
Mendoza was another midseason signing, coming aboard in August 2010 at a salary below the Designated Player level. He would score two goals in 8 games to help the playoff hunt.
Mendoza got a pay raise in 2011 and would shoulder the scoring load of the Crew offense. He led the team with 13 goals, but also alienated fans and coaches with his attitude. 
The mercurial Peruvian would go long stretches without finding the goal, then score in bunches. He had four two goal games, but had a couple stretches when he went at least four games without a goal.
Mendoza's nonchalant demeanor didn't endear him to many Crew fans. He didn't do much work on defense and his attitude in practice was poor. He looked the same after a two goal game or missing a sure goal.
He earned a rebuke from head coach Robert Warzycha and a chorus of boos from the home crowd for taking a what would have been a record tying penalty kick from Jeff Cunningham.
At 33, he didn't have his speed anymore, and he could only score with his left foot. He was a sharpshooter when he was hot, but the coaches felt he was a poor fit for the team and was cut after the 2011 season.
Without Mendoza, the Crew offensive struggles reached new depths in 2012. The team has only averaged a goal a game and sits outside of the final playoff place by 8 points. If Higuain lives up to his billing, it could mean a rescue of the season.
Higuain is seen as the missing piece to get the Crew offense firing, but his reputation in Argentina is as a creator rather than a goal scorer. He scored 10 goals in 62 games at Colon before transferring to Columbus.
Higuain will be expected to do the same in black and gold. The team recently switched formations and he could line up underneath Jairo Arrieta and bring others into the flow of the game, much like Schelotto's role in 2008.
Higuain is expected to join the team before today's game against Houston and will likely be in the game day roster of 18. Coaches and fans will be eager if he can live up to his lofty expectations and he may get a chance immediately.
Even if Higuain doesn't turn around the 2012 season, he appears to be a long term signing. He is only 27 and still in his prime; this could be a signing that pays off long term.


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