Columbus Crew SC have pulled some surprises this year. Whether it’s a three-man backline or just a drastic change in tactics, the Black & Gold haven’t been afraid to try something new in 2017.
Crew SC are certainly doing that with the lineup Saturday against the Chicago Fire.
Normal playmaker Federico Higuain does not make the 18-man game day roster, nor does new addition Kekuta Manneh.
In Higuain’s place is Artur, who is replaced in his normal midfield spot but Mohammed Abu. The Ghanian started the season opener in central midfield, but has been outside the starting 11 each game since.
Usual right back starter Harrison Afful is also left out today, replaced instead by the versatile veteran Hector Jimenez.
Backup goalkeeper Brad Stuver is not available for the game, as rookie Logan Ketterer make his first appearance on the Crew SC bench and second-year midfielder Cristian Martinez makes his first appearance of the year in the Columbus 18.
While Afful (thumb) and Stuver (elbow) both dealt with injuries this week and were listed as questionable on the injury report, head coach Gregg Berhalter indicated both players were doing fine late in the week and both were in uniform during Friday’s session.
Higuain trained most of the week, and appeared full go during Wednesday’s session, but a club spokesperson indicated he is dealing with a right ankle injury that made him questionable heading into the match with Orlando City.
The excitement is high on Manneh, yet Berhalter made it clear this week that fitness was an issue with the winger and is the likely reason he will not participate today.
This means is Artur gets a shot playing in the No. 10 role, filling in for Higuain. Jimenez, who has not yet featured for Crew SC this season, will once again be a jack of all traits, stepping in at right wingback.
The Fire meanwhile adjust to the suspension of Juninho with a three-man (potentially five-man) back line that The Men in Red have not played this season.