In the first leg of the MLS Eastern Conference Finals, Toronto FC had to deal with the absences of two of its most important players in Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore. When Columbus Crew SC meets the Canadians again next Wednesday, it will be the Black & Gold who will be missing a key player.
Midfielder Artur is suspended for the match due to yellow card accumulation. The Brazilian was shown a yellow card in the first round of the MLS Cup playoffs against Atlanta United and booked again in the match against Toronto because of a foul committed on Michael Bradley in the first half.
“They were starting a counter attack and they would be in a good position because we were a little bit unorganized at that moment,” Artur recalled. “So I decided to stop the play because it could be a dangerous situation for us. I felt sad in the moment knowing I wouldn’t play the second leg, but when I’m on the field, I give all I have to my team and that’s what I did.”
Artur has been a stud for Crew SC in 2017, amassing 27 appearances and 22 starts during his debut season. He scored a single goal — against New York City FC in the playoffs — and notched three assists. His hard work is especially impactful in the defensive end, though, as he lead the team in tackles, with 3.3 per game, according to WhoScored.com.
With Artur suspended, head coach Gregg Berhalter is likely to put Ghanaian midfielder Mohammed Abu in the starting lineup next week as he hinted in the post-match press conference when asked about Artur’s absence.
“We’ll miss him (Artur), there’s no question,” Berhalter said. “He’s quality and covers a lot of ground. The good thing about the way it turns out is Mohammed has played lately. He’s done a good job, he did a good job in New York and we expect him to do a good job again if his number is called.”
Abu, indeed, has been part of Crew SC’s core during the regular season, having played in 20 matches, with 14 starts. In the playoffs, he was used in both matches against New York City, starting one and coming off the bench in the other.
To Wil Trapp, who will share the midfield position with Abu, Crew SC will miss Artur’s presence, but there is no concern regarding what his replacement can bring to the team.
“It’s going to be tough,” he noted. “He (Artur) does so much work for us defensively. But Mo has been excellent all year as well.”
Abu will likely get another opportunity to start a game and he has the team’s confidence to back him up in such an important moment of the season, even Artur’s, who spoke highly about his replacement.
“He’s quality,” Artur told. “We all know what he can do for us. I am sure he will have a very good match. He has played a lot this season and it the system won’t change much with him on the field.”
Starting Abu would be the most logical choice if Berhalter intends to keep the team playing in the same system it did for most of the season. The head coach, though, could have his sleeves up and plan something differently, as a three-man backline.