CRISTIAN HIGUITAMidfield, Colombia
Orlando City is just 13 games into the 2016 Major League Soccer regular season and if anything has been made evident it’s that the Lion’s are a better team when they have Cristian Higuita patrolling their midfield.
Higuita has featured in eight games for Orlando City so far this season. In those eight games, the Lions have tallied three wins, one loss, and four draws. That’s 13 points out of a possible 24, or 1.625 points per game.
In the five games he’s missed, Orlando City has only been able to manage an embarrassing 3 points out of a possible 15.
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A lot of Orlando City’s success relies on the midfield partnership between Higuita and Darwin Ceren. In the five matches that the two have featured in the same starting eleven, the Lions have earned two wins, one loss, and two draws. That’s a solid 8 points from a possible 15, or 1.60 points per match.
In the eight games that they haven’t played together, the team has one win, two losses, and five draws. That’s only 8 points from a possible 24, or 1.00 points per match.
The problem is however, that Orlando City shouldn’t have had to play 8 games without their prolific midfield duo. Yes, Ceren has unfortunately been sidelined since May 15th due to a hamstring injury, and Higuita was forced to miss matches against Philadelphia and New England in mid-April, but they still would have been able to play together in 3 matches had it not been for unnecessary suspensions for the two.
Higuita has been suspended for a shocking 3 matches already this season; March 6th against Real Salt Lake for a red card earned last season, May 15th against Sporting Kansas City for his May 5th red card against the New York Red Bulls, and May 29th against New York City FC for his accumulation of 5 yellow cards in the season.
The complete lack of discipline exhibited by Higuita this season, is simply unacceptable from an important player at this level. His 5 yellows are tied for third most in the league, and the players above him have played in 11 and 12 games respectively, not 8.
It’s unfortunate we have to focus on his discipline record because he’s been otherwise phenomenal on the pitch. He’s notched 39 successful tackles (4.88 per match) and 24 interceptions (3.00 per match). He’s also been very impressive completing 346 out of 423 passes (81.8%) and an unbelievable 32 out of 43 long balls (74.42%)
Most Forgettable Performance:
Cristian did not have a good game against the Red Bulls, when they came to town on May 5th. In the Colombian international’s other seven games this season he has averaged 5.43 successful tackles per game, in the Cinco de Mayo match he only managed 1 successful tackle.
Higuita is normally an extremely reliable distributor of the ball from the deep lying midfield role, yet in the match against the Red Bulls, Jesse Marsch’s boys implemented their high press, making Cristian uncomfortable and forcing him to only complete 31 out of 43 attempted passes, for a pass accuracy percentage of 72.09%. In his other seven appearances so far, he has completed an extremely impressive 315 out of 380 attempted passes for a pass accuracy percentage of 82.89%.
Click here to watch Higuita’s Red Card challenge on Sacha Kljestan
To top off what was an already horrible day for Higuita, late in the match he was shown a straight red card for an ill-advised challenge on the Red Bull’s Sacha Kljestan.
Most Memorable Performance:
The former Deportivo Cali player showed Lion fans what he is capable of in Orlando City’s 1-0 win over New York City FC, on March 18th. It was a match where the team needed someone to step up and shut down NYCFC’s potent attack.
Cyle Larin tallied his third goal of the year in the 7th minute of the game, but it was clear from the starting whistle that this was going to be a battle.
Early in the second half, Head Coach Adrian Heath’s hand was forced when he had to make substitutions for two injured players. When defensive midfielder Servando Carrasco, replaced Antonio Nocerino, who was playing in an attacking role in the 54th minute and Pedro Ribeiro, an attacking midfielder, came on for Larin, a forward, in the 55th minute, it was obvious that Orlando City was doing everything they could to just protect the lead and get out of Yankee Stadium with a win or honestly, even a draw would have sufficed.
Higuita responded by having his most dominant defensive performance of the season. He was successful on 10 tackles, 7 of which were in the defensive half of the field. He made 3 interceptions, all in the second half of the game, in the defensive half of the field. He had one important defensive clearance and gained possession from NYCFC players an impressive 10 times.
Higuita distributed the ball particularly well in that match as well. He completed 39 out of 43 attempted passes, for a crazy passing accuracy percentage of 90.698%. In the defensive half of the field, he completed a nearly perfect 30 out of 31 passes, for a passing accuracy percentage of 96.77%.
The 1-0 result was Orlando City’s first win of the season and is still the Lion’s only clean sheet so far.
All statistics quoted are taken from https://www.whoscored.com/