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Apr 012014

Pippa’s very happy.

Federico Higuain has three goals and two assists in the Columbus Crew’s first three games of the 2014 season; all of which have resulted in a Crew victory. He is clearly the best player on the team and is an early candidate for league MVP as the Crew are experiencing their first 3-0-0 start in team history.

There are plenty of statistics out there that can illustrate the tremendous impact Federico Higuain has had on this team. You don’t need me to recite them for you. Instead I want to paint Higuain in a different light: as a role model for young American soccer players.

There is still an “establishment” among US soccer coaches that stretches from U-8 rec teams all the way up to MLS. This “establishment” comes from the old school mentality of athletic development in the United States. For decades the most popular sport has been football. Success in football is not determined by skill and intelligence so much as strength and speed. A linebacker can react slowly to a certain play and still rely upon his physical ability to make a play. He simply needs to be able to outrun the other guy and be strong enough to bring him down. The same is true to a lesser extent in basketball. If you’re tall and strong you have a pretty significant advantage. As with any “rules” there are obviously exceptions.

This line of thinking continues to permeate the youth soccer ranks, but it is slowly improving. Coaches at the club/high school/college level continue to look for the athlete who can out-sprint defenders or hold down the fort on set pieces. If you’re not big/strong/fast enough, you can find yourself on the bench at a lot of places. It’s infuriating to watch, but it happens and will continue to happen as long as a league like MLS relies upon drafting college players to fill its ranks.

So where does Federico Higuain fit into this?

He didn’t grow up in the United States. He grew up in Argentina. He always had a ball at his feet and as a result he learned how to become a very skilled player. He is the antithesis of what many US youth soccer coaches are looking for. He’s listed as five feet, eight inches tall (roughly the same height as one Lionel Messi) and I’m guessing his 40 yard dash time wouldn’t warrant mentioning at the NFL combine. But he has vision and he knows how to put the ball where it needs to go. He manipulates it on set pieces and during the run of play. He can’t outrun most defenders and he can’t body check them either. He uses his wits and his technical ability to be successful. He also uses them to make his teammates better. If I had a son/daughter playing youth soccer I’d be showing them game tape of Federico Higuain 24/7. If the United States ever wants to compete, it needs more players like Higuain. It needs more “soccer players” and fewer “freakish athletes”.

It needs more Federico Higuains.


Adam Uthe

VP of Content Development for GFT and proud supporter of Columbus Crew (MLS) and Liverpool FC (EPL). @AUtheGFT

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