For plenty of teams around MLS, identifying the most important one or two men would become a wonderful starting line for a night of pub debate.
Think about it. Who really is the top influencer or the top pair for the Galaxy? Between David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and Omar Gonzalez, you’d surely get a variety of opinions.
Same for the New York Red Bulls or Kansas City or Chicago, the current Eastern Conference trio of leaders.
But for a few clubs, pinpointing that top pair is pretty basic stuff. Take Columbus, for instance.
Can there be a bit of doubt that playmaker Federico Higuain, new though he be, and goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum (pictured) are the most essential elements to the suddenly foundering playoff hopes around Crew Stadium?
So it comes as the very best of news that both men, in question for tonight’s “gotta have it” match against flailing Chivas USA, appear to be ready to go.
Gruenebaum, a revelation in goal this year as a replacement for injured, previous starter Will Hesmer, left last week’s loss to New York after banging his head on the post. Higuain is dealing with a toe injury.
On the one hand, Columbus might be able to handle this one without their critical pair, leaning more on steady Eddie Gaven and others. Then again, there is zero margin for error at this point. If Higuain and Gruenebaum can go, then go they must.
The current Eastern Conference standings: