The injury bug continues for Columbus Crew SC in 2019.
Versatile midfielder/defender Hector Jimenez is expected to miss time with an MCL injury. Jimenez suffered the injury early in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes following an awkward leg collision. The left back had to be stretchered from the field and was substituted after just nine minutes of play.
An MRI taken early this week revealed that the knee would not require surgery but Jimenez will sit out at least this week’s game against rivals FC Cincinnati. Massive Report was told to expect Jimenez to miss multiple weeks while he recovers.
“We’re not sure the severity yet but he’ll definitely be out this weekend,” head coach Caleb Porter said on Wednesday. “I’ll have more updates as we go. We don’t have a concrete timeline. But definitely going to be out this weekend.”
This is disappointing news for the Crew, who have dealt with injuries at positions all over the field this year and were finally starting to get healthy for a final push toward the 2019 MLS Cup playoffs. Jimenez has been one of the players to remain healthy and available for the Black & Gold this year and his ability to play multiple positions meant he was a key piece for Porter to plug in where needed.
Originally the 34th pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft by the LA Galaxy, Jimenez came to the Crew in a trade prior to the 2014 season, shortly after his former teammate, Gregg Berhalter, was named the club’s head coach and sporting director. Despite playing as a winger for the Galaxy and initially for the Crew, Berhalter used Jimenez in a number of positions, including either fullback spot and even in the central attacking midfield, a role Jimenez played in college.
Under Berhalter, Jimenez became known as the team’s Swiss Army Knife, able to be used all over the field. While this meant he often only started matches when filling in for other players — coming into this year, he had started 65 percent of his games played for Columbus — Jimenez happily played his role and never complained about his usage.
In 2019, Jimenez filled a similar role once Berhalter left and Porter took over. Due to the rash of injuries Crew players have suffered this year, Jimenez has seen his playing time increase dramatically. Playing at both winger and outside back spots in various matches, Jimenez played in 23 of the team’s 25 games so far this year, tying a career-high with 19 starts.
“He’s been a valuable guy this year for us,” Porter said of Jimenez. “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.”
The Black & Gold will hope to have another option at left back, where Jimenez started the match on Saturday, this week. Waylon Francis, the team’s typical starter at left back, continues his recovery from a leg injury that forced him out of the July 20 win against the Montreal Impact. Aboubacar Keita, who started at his natural center back position against the Quakes and moved to left back when Jimenez went out, is also dealing with an undisclosed injury that forced him from the San Jose game in the 76th minute.
Both players will race the clock in the hope of being fit for Saturday’s home match.
“Waylon’s coming along. He did a little bit more today,” Porter updated. “We’re hoping that he’ll be in training soon. Bouba as well. Both of those guys are close. We expect to have them back here in the next several days to a week.”
If all three players miss the contest against Cincinnati, the Crew might be forced to use another make-shift left back. Josh Williams has played the role in the past but was limited in training on Wednesday with a hamstring injury. Connor Maloney is a young right back who could be inserted but he has just four MLS appearances in three years and only one under Porter. Pedro Santos played left wing back under Berhalter and at points this season but is the team’s only No. 10 after the season-ending injury to Federico Higuain earlier this year.