COLUMBUS – Federico Higuaín gave Columbus fans disappointed in its season something to look forward to next year as his two goals led the Crew to a 2-1 win over Toronto FC in the season finales for both teams at Crew Stadium on Sunday.
The Designated Player from Argentina joined the club in mid-August and had five goals and seven assists in 13 games, including the winner off a penalty kick in the 62nd minute after Andrew Wiedeman’s goal in the 27th leveled the match 10 minutes following Higuain’s first strike since August 25.
Video: Watch the Game In Six minutes.
Gloomy conditions, a wind chill and a driving rain were apropos for the last game: Toronto had long been eliminated from playoff contention and the Crew’s chances ended with a loss at D.C. United on Oct. 20.
The Crew (15-12-7, 52 points) finished sixth in the Eastern Conference, one point behind Houston for the fifth and final playoff spot.
Toronto (5-21-8, 23) will carry a 14-game (0-10-4) winless streak into 2013 thanks in large part to the work of Higuaín, who drew and then converted the PK in the second half. His deft maneuvering got him free directly in front of the goal and caused TFC midfielder Terry Dunfield to grab him.
Dunfield was cautioned and seconds later Higuaín used a stutter-step move to beat Freddy Hall.
Higuaín almost got the hat trick in the 69th but his curling strike was headed for the right upper 90 before Hall stretched and made the save.
His first goal of the match came by collecting an errant deflection off a Toronto player after teammate Jairo Arrieta applied pressure. Higuaín had a sharp cutback to his left at the top of the box to create space then slotted the ball into the lower right corner past Hall.
Toronto tied the match when Wiedeman out-positioned defender Eric Gehrig to receive the ball in stride from Ryan Johnson near the penalty area. Gehrig’s slide tackle attempt was unsuccessful and Wiedeman was able to beat goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum for his second goal of the season.
The teams exchanged chances for the lead in the 41st minute with Gruenebaum denying Reggie Lambe from 18 yards straight-on, then at the other end, homegrown rookie midfielder Ben Speas was stopped near post from 12 yards by Hall.
The Crew took all three games from the Reds this season to decisively claim the Trillium Cup competition between the clubs.
17' Columbus - Federico Higuain
27' Toronto - Andrew Wiedeman
62' Columbus - Federico Higuain (PK)
61' Toronto - Terry Dunfield
Columbus - Andy Gruenebaum; Carlos Mendes, Josh Williams, Sebastian Mirands, Eric Gehrig; Tony Tchani, Eddie Gaven, Chris Birchall (Kevan George 89'), Ben Speas (Emilio Renteria 64'); Jairo Arrieta (Justin Meram 90+2'), Federico Higuain
Substitutes not used: Matt Lampson; Nemanja Vukovic, Julius James, Dilly Duka
Toronto - Freddy Hall; Jeremy Hall, Richard Eckersley, Adrian Cann, Ashtone Morgan; Andrew Wiedeman, Luis Silva, Terry Dunfield, Eric Avila (Logan Emory 86'); Reggie Lambe, Ryan Johnson (Doneil Henry 69')
Substitutes not used: Quillan Roberts; Dicoy Williams, Aaron Maund, Oscar Cordon, Nicholas Lindsay