LOS ANGELES — With Columbus Crew SC officially saved and staying in Ohio, the team’s players have a weight off their shoulders heading into the 2019 season.
The Crew held a news conference earlier this month introducing a host of new faces, including president Tim Bezbatchenko, head coach Caleb Porter and new owners Dee Haslam and Pete Edwards, who are part of the ownership group that purchased the Crew from Anthony Precourt. His new franchise, Austin FC, was announced by the league last week.
Precourt originally planned to move Columbus Crew SC to Austin.
“Of course, I feel a lot better that we do have that feeling of safety here,” Higuaín said Saturday at MLS media day. “I think that when the situation was going on last year, which was hard to deal with, the team did a very good job focusing on what was going on on the field as well as competing. Now that that’s done and over with, we can focus on the future and moving forward.”
Edwards is the Crew’s former team doctor.
“I remember that our doctor used to say to me, ‘We will stay. We will stay,’” Higuaín said. “He continued to fight for it to happen. When that happened, I shook his hand and I said, ‘I hope that one day, I can fight for something like you did and achieve it.’ He fought for a club that meant a lot for this city.”
It was not easy for the team to try to ignore questions surrounding the likely move of the club to Texas.
“I think the last year and a half was not the best moment for us,” Higuaín said. “But now with this new news, new owners, new general manager, new coach, we’re looking forward [to] a big moment.”
Higuaín added a new stadium and the other changes could help bring new players to Columbus. The Crew’s future plans include a downtown stadium, set to begin construction the summer, and repurposing MAPFRE Stadium into a training facility and community sports park.
Higuaín said what Crew SC supporters did to organize the #SaveTheCrew movement was amazing.
“I think it was a good moment for the culture of football in the country,” he said. “People will remember this moment for a long, long time.”
He held up Crew SC supporters for their dedication to the club and a sign American soccer fandom is growing.
Higuaín said the #SaveTheCrew movement set a “precedent” for soccer fandom in the U.S.
“In other countries, fandom is a cultural thing,” he said. “This is still a young league and will continue to be a young league. With that said, the league has grown in many different areas, infrastructure and such. So, it’s a matter of giving it time. You can see that things such as derbies and clasicos are beginning to develop.
“A lot of the growth of fandom in the U.S. will depend on how the U.S. men’s national team does, as well as how we play, so at one point, young kids can stop playing other sports and focus more on soccer. As this happens, the culture will then continue to develop in this country.”