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Santos returns home due to family illness; return time uncertain

The Crew could be without one of its key wingers for Saturday’s match.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at Montreal Impact Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Crew SC hasn’t been at full strength in some time. This week, the Black & Gold were dealt another blow.

Winger Pedro Santos had to leave the team to return to his home country of Portugal to be with his family while his father deals with an illness, according to head coach Caleb Porter. Porter did not want to elaborate on the nature of the illness and the team is not sure how long Santos will be gone.

“I don’t know if he’ll be available or not,” Porter said on Thursday in reference to Saturday’s Major League Soccer match at Minnesota United. “Right now that’s still up in the air. It depends on obviously the situation with his family member. But we obviously are always very supportive of those things. Obviously, it’s tough to have him not here for the week but in this situation, it’s necessary that he’s home. So he could be back but we don’t know yet. It depends.”

Santos has played in all 13 games for Columbus in the 2019 season, starting 12. The only game the winger did not start was the 2-0 loss at the Houston Dynamo on April 27, and that was due to squad rotation in the final game of a three-in-eight stretch. This year, Santos is tied for second on the team in goals (2) with center back Gaston Sauro while also contributing two assists. He should have added a third goal in the first half of the Crew’s May 4 game at D.C. United but the finish was called back. MLS has since reviewed the play and said the goal should have stood.

While Santos has not exactly been prolific in his Black & Gold career — just three goals and 11 assists in 52 MLS games — the winger is off to a good start to 2019. Despite the offensive struggles of the group — 12 goals scored on the year — Santos has been lively and arguably the team’s best attacking catalyst.

If Santos were to miss Saturday’s trip to Allianz Field, the Crew do have a little depth at the position. Third-year professional Niko Hansen has featured five times for the Black & Gold this year after returning from a preseason injury. He could be an option to lineup opposite regular left wing starter Robinho. Both Luis Argudo and Eduardo Sosa have also played on the wings at times, although that spot is neither player’s ideal position.

Perhaps the most likely replacement would be the recently acquired David Accam, who came over in a trade from the Philadelphia Union on May 8. After playing eight times for the Union and scoring four goals this season, Accam made his Crew debut in 25 minutes off the bench in last Saturday’s 3-0 loss to Los Angeles Football Club.

“Maybe,” Porter said when asked about inserting Accam into the starting 11 after just over a week in Columbus. “I think obviously we brought him here for a reason. We didn’t bring David Accam and David Guzman here to sit. We brought them here to play, we know they’re starting caliber players.”

It’s a difficult situation for the Crew to lose one of their key offensive pieces at a time when the club needs all the offensive help it can get, but family comes first and the Black & Gold support Santos’ need to be back in Portugal.

Once again, the team’s depth could be tested in the game against United where Columbus will hope to find just the second win in their last eight matches, with our without Santos.