Federico Higuain has already paid major dividends for the Columbus Crew.
The Argentine playmaker has proven to be a creative influence in his first two games with the Crew heading into Saturday night's home matchup with a New England Revolution team that is winless in its last seven games.
Higuain made his first start Wednesday and had a goal and an assist in a 2-1 home win over Toronto FC. He had an assist in his club debut Sunday in a 2-2 draw at Houston.
The Crew's newest designated player signed July 27 before immigration issues delayed his arrival.
"He's going to be a huge asset for us I think," midfielder Eddie Gaven said. "He's got a very good understanding of the game, holds the ball well, makes very good passes and he can also put the ball in the back of the net, which is what we need.
"It's been definitely very nice to see him do all those things early and hopefully we'll just keep getting better as we keep on playing more together."
Gaven was the recipient of Higuain's assist Wednesday. The Crew improved to 20-0-4 in the last 24 games in which Gaven has scored.
Columbus (9-8-6) is in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with 33 points. The top five teams reach the playoffs, and fifth-place D.C. United has 40 points but has played one more match than the Crew.
The Crew are on a 6-1-2 run in the series with New England (6-13-5) after these teams played to a scoreless draw June 16 at Gillette Stadium in their first 2012 matchup.
That took place before Costa Rican forward Jairo Arrieta made his MLS debut July 14 for Columbus. Arrieta has three goals and two assists in seven games.
The presence of Higuain and Arrieta should make this contest even more difficult for the Revolution, who have lost four straight and are 0-6-1 since beating New York on July 8. New England is 1-9-2 on the road.
"We have to obviously be good defensively, they have a good attacking corps and a couple new faces that bring a lot of energy to their team," Revolution midfielder Clyde Simms said.
New England was outshot 16-5 in falling 2-1 at Chicago last Saturday. Twelve of its 13 losses this season have been by one goal.
"We know we are close," Simms said. "We feel like we have been in all these games, recently just a couple of mistakes that have cost us. I think that's why we're able to stay positive for sure."
Revolution forward Jerry Bengtson could be back in the lineup after he came off the bench last weekend in his second game since returning from his time with the Honduran Olympic team.
Getting quality play up front has been a problem for New England, with forward Saer Sene scoring only one of his team-high nine goals in the last eight games.
Revolution midfielder Lee Nguyen is listed as questionable after he exited last weekend's game at halftime with an ankle sprain.