Higuain, Gruenebaum aim for Weds. returns

Higuain and Gruenebaum set sights on Wednesday's match

OBETZ, Ohio — Two players essential to the Columbus Crew’s playoff run — forward Federico Higuain and goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum — said they will be ready for Wednesday’s match against Chivas USA.

Higuain had three goals and six assists in his first six games but was limited to stoppage-time action Saturday at New York because of an injured right big toe.

“I practiced today with no problem,” Higuain said through a translator, assistant coach Ricardo Iribarren said. “If the coach decides to put me in the lineup I am ready. That’s the reason I didn’t play much on Saturday. That could affect my performance the rest of the season.”

He said he first felt a little pain in the match at Philadelphia on Aug. 29 and more on the turf at New England on Sept. 5.

Higuain added that there was some discomfort against the Red Bulls but that the doctor who gave him the injection said the medication would take full effect today or Tuesday to relieve the pain.

As for Gruenebaum, he was injured when he dove headfirst into the left post in an unsuccessful attempt to save a headed corner kick by Dax McCarty in the 79th minute. The goal gave the Red Bulls a 2-1 lead on the way to a 3-1 win, and the collision with the post forced Gruenebaum from the game.

Gruenebaum sported a swollen nose and cheekbones and small cut above his left eye on Monday but participated in ball-handling drills.

“I plan on playing,” he said to MLSsoccer.com. “It’s really how I feel.”

He said his biggest concern is a sore back from twisting and falling. Gruenebaum tried to convince the medical staff that he could continue the match but soon changed his mind.

“I felt at the time my head was fine,” he said. “It was my back. When I stood up I realized it wasn’t a good idea to stay in.”

The initial focus was on the blood coming out of the wound and whether he had suffered a concussion. Henry even came over to check on him.

“He was like ‘Dude, you’ve got come out. There’s no way you can stay in. Look at you!’ ” Gruenebaum said.

On the play he was injured, Gruenebaum said he didn’t spot McCarty’s shot through the traffic until the last second.

“I was concentrating so much on making the save,” he said. “I wish I would have gotten the ball and not the post, but it was a good finish.”

The result in New York was the Crew’s second straight loss. It dropped them to sixth in the Eastern Conference, two points behind D.C. United for the final postseason spot with six matches left. Having Higuain and Gruenebaum back in the lineup is an important development.