Columbus Crew SC will be without veteran Hector Jimenez for at least five of its final eight 2019 Major League Soccer regular season matches as the midfielder/defender was diagnosed with an MCL injury on his left knee after the match against the San Jose Earthquakes on Aug. 3.
The 30-year-old veteran wore crutches and a brace on his left knee last week while at the Crew’s 2-2 draw with FC Cincinnati and after being re-evaluated by the team’s medical staff, he received the injury diagnosed.
“He’s got an MCL and it’s not going to be any time in the next several weeks,” head coach Caleb Porter said after Wednesday’s training session. “It’s going to be probably a month before he’s back.”
If Jimenez is indeed out for a month, that would mean he’d miss matches against Toronto FC, New York City FC, FC Cincinnati, the Chicago Fire and Atlanta United. He should be cleared to play against the Vancouver Whitecaps, on Sept. 21, thee Philadelphia Union and Toronto FC, but his participation would depend on his fitness and on the team’s situation in the standings.
Jimenez, who’s been with the Crew since 2014, has played in 23 matches (19 starts) in 2019, scoring one goal and recording four assists. As it has become the norm on his career with the Black & Gold, he was used in multiple positions, including both fullback spots and on the wing.
“He’s been a valuable guy this year for us,” Porter said following the the injury. “He’s a good player, he’s a great locker room guy, good leader and he’s stepped in at right back, stepped in at left back, he’s played on the wings. So that’s why we really value him is because he can play a lot of different roles and because he’s such a good pro and a good guy. In terms of the depth piece, his presence will be missed until he gets back.”
With Jimenez out, the Crew is currently out of a specialist for the left back position, which saw right back Connor Maloney start last Saturday against FC Cincinnati. Costa Rican international Waylon Francis could be back from injury any time now, however. Midfielder Pedro Santos and center backs Aboubacar Keita and Josh Williams have both seen time as the position as well, but similar Francis, Keita and Williams are both injured.
"Josh and Waylon are still working back in and we don't know if they'll be ready for this week, but they are close," Porter added. "If they are ready, they'll start. Bouba is further off and the tough thing is that they are all guys who play at the back and we don't have a lot of options there right now."
The Crew currently sit seven points back of the final MLS Cup playoff spot with eight games to play. While the postseason is a long shot, it is not out of the question but continuing to lose key players to injuries, such as Jimenez, does not make the task any easier for Columbus.