Columbus Crew SC has been playing games fast and furious in 2020. With games in quick succession, fatigue becomes a lot higher, which can make players more injury-prone. The Black & Gold have dealt with multiple injuries to key players recently but could be closer to full strength soon.
Midfielder Darlington Nagbe hasn’t played since Columbus’ 3-0 victory against FC Cincinnati at MAPFRE Stadium on Sept. 6, missing four games in the process. Despite the fact Nagbe played all 90 minutes of that match, he suffered a knee-to-knee collision in the game prior against the Philadelphia Union. Nagbe spent the rest of September out but head coach Caleb Porter said he is getting healthier now.
“He has been progressing really well,” Porter updated on Thursday. “He ran on the Alter-G (Anti-Gravity Treadmill) yesterday and today. We are hoping to have him start running full out on the pitch in the next several days. He is probably still one to two weeks away but he is making good progress.”
Nagbe has been instrumental to the success of the Crew in his first season with the club with his midfield hold-up play and precision passing. He has completed more than 90 percent of his passes this year to go along with high tackle rates and successful dribbles.
The current timetable of one to two weeks would mean Nagbe could miss the next three games and could return for the Oct. 14 rematch against FC Cincinnati.
In replacement of Nagbe in the center of midfield was Fatai Alashe acquired in a trade with Cincinnati on Aug. 17. Alashe started four consecutive games in place of Nagbe before being subbed early in the Minnesota United match on Sept. 23. The midfielder has added more defensively in the middle in his role than Nagbe and Porter said he is also “making progress” toward a return after missing the 3-1 loss to Toronto FC over the weekend.
Another new signing suffered an injury recently as well. Striker Fanendo Adi was listed as out with an undisclosed injury. His last appearance was off the bench for Columbus against Chicago on Sept. 12. The Nigerian forward has yet to score his first goal in black and gold but might get that chance soon though.
“Adi also was in training today,” Porter continued. “He is still not one hundred percent but he is getting close.”
While this season’s injuries haven’t been as longterm as those in 2019, they have stacked up over the course of 2020, and very rarely has the Crew had its full squad fit and healthy. Despite not having his complete squad, Porter is using this as an opportunity to play others in preparation for the future.
“We feel like we’ve been a little banged up the last week or so,” the head coach said. “Obviously we have had some limited options in especially the center of the park. That’s been a bit of a challenge for us. It’s been also good because we have been able to play a couple of young guys. You saw Sebastian Berhalter and Aidan Morris get time last game. Of course, we are not going to be quite as strong when that happens but also in the big picture what we are trying to do as a club, it’s good for those guys to get minutes and for us to show faith in them. I guess that’s a moral victory on the day.”
Columbus now will have the most condensed schedule of games the team has had in its history. The Black & Gold will play a match every three or four days from starting Saturday against FC Dallas until Oct. 18. While Columbus had to play the youngsters in the center midfield roles, getting Nagbe and Alashe back will allow the side to excel in one of its strongest suits, possession and control.
“With Fatai coming back in and Darlington coming back in, for sure we will be a bit stronger in there,” Porter said. “A lot of our control in matches both sides of the ball comes in the center of the midfield for us and that’s where we have been one of the best teams in the league.”