Cristian Higuita’s fourth year with Orlando City saw yet another upheaval. The Colombian midfielder has been the steady constant for the Lions on the field as the team has been chopped and changed around him. One of the last remnants from City’s 2015 expansion roster, Higuita has continued to make at least 20 appearances and has remained a reliable player in central midfield.
In 2018, the 24-year-old added another level to his game on the offensive end while continuing to harass the opposition on the defensive end for what might be the most complete season he has had in Orlando.
2018 was Higuita’s first year in purple in which he didn’t see at least 1,500 minutes, clocking in at 1,366, though his goal production still increased. His 21 matches played ties his season low in Orlando, as he was hampered by a recurring adductor injury, although his 18 starts is second only to his 25 starts in City’s expansion season.
The big improvement for Cristian was his production in the final third. His slow transition from defensive midfield to an offensive option resulted in four goals this year after two combined in the three years prior. Those four scores tied the midfielder for third on the team but for the first time in his career he did not record an assist.
Higuita was also impressive in other areas of the game. His 88% pass completion was good enough for third-best on the team as well. He was also second behind Yoshimar Yotún in fouls received per match, fifth in tackles per game with two, ninth in interceptions with one, and tied for sixth in completed dribbles per game.
Higuita set new personal lows in yellow cards (six) and fouls conceded (32), but the Colombian still managed to receive a red card, which has been a constant during his career with Orlando.
Higuita’s best stretch was at the tail end of the winning streak and the beginning of the slide. He scored three of his goals over five matches and was Orlando’s most consistent offensive option during that period. His best game of that stretch came against Toronto FC on May 18.
Cristian scored the equalizer in the 73rd minute but was active all over the midfield and crucial to a solid performance by the Lions that fell apart at the very end.
The midfielder’s 99 touches were second in the match only to teammate Mohamed El-Munir. The Colombian also led all players in passing percentage with an incredibly efficient 94.6%. Defensively, he owned the center of the park with four tackles, four interceptions, three clearances, and a whopping 14 recoveries.
It was arguably the most complete performance of Higuita’s young career, affecting the match around both boxes, dictating the tempo of the match, and getting the goal.
2018 Final Grade
This year, Cristian Higuita earned a composite grade of 6 from The Mane Land staff. Higuita couldn’t quite lock down a starting spot in central midfield with Yotún, Carlos Ascues, Uri Rosell, and Will Johnson competing for places. While the 24-year-old was a bright spot for stretches of the year, suspensions and injury issues piled on with inconsistent performances. Higuita finally added goals to his game, but some poor decisions and lack of discipline still came up far too often.
Higuita is in a unique position entering 2019. Orlando City has a plethora of central midfielders and will likely need to shed some moving forward. The Colombian had a positive year but is among the highest-paid players on the team, having earned a guaranteed salary of $581,662.67. With the club likely needing to shed some salary and Higuita not a nailed-on starter, Cristian may finally depart Central Florida after four good years. It seems to be a constant storyline surrounding the midfielder every off-season, though, and he’ll have an opportunity to make an impression on yet another head coach.