There’s a lot of excitement around the Columbus Crew again. After a team record start, they Black & Gold dipped in quality and results. Columbus got back on track with a 3-1 victory over New York City FC and had a week off that included a Caleb Porter announcement that injured playmakers Darlington Nagbe, Lucas Zelarayan and Eloy Room would return in some capacity on Saturday against Houston Dynamo.
It’s with that excitement and anticipation that you were asked to select who you wanted to start for the Crew’s return trip to Texas, after coming away with a 2-2 draw in the team’s last Western Conference match against FC Dallas on Oct. 3.
Here’s who you chose:
One thing that is crystal clear through your selections is that you want the entire first team back and healthy. Porter did not specify how they would be used or whether those players will get the start or will come off the bench. You want Room, Zelarayan and Nagbe on the pitch right away.
In Nagbe’s absence, Fatai Alashe and Aidan Morris have both received substantial time, with Morris making the most of all of his minutes. A return for Nagbe will be his first time seeing the field since Sept. 6 when he played the No. 10 role in the 3-0 victory against FC Cincinnati.
Zelarayan and Room will potentially make their first start since the last time Columbus was in Texas, when Room was substituted due to injury. Zelarayan’s return would come at a good time, with Pedro Santos getting a knock in the NYCFC win. There is no word that he is out but with a healthier side returning, giving him time off would help Columbus prepare for the playoffs and get back to as close to 100 percent as possible.
There are no changes from your picks on the defensive side. New extended contract holder Jonathan Mensah had 100 percent of your confidence alongside Josh Williams and the usual suspects at fullback with Harrison Afful and Milton Valenzuela.
A low-key difficult decision was the winger role, opposite your choice of Santos, with four more than qualified candidates in Luis Diaz, Youness Mokhtar, Emmanuel Boateng (who has seen the last two starting team sheets) and Derrick Etienne Jr. You chose the latter, and it doesn’t come without merit after his performance against New York City.
Let’s compare your picks with Massive Report’s.
Going back to the elephant in the room, how will Porter use those coming back from injury? On one hand, giving Nagbe and Zelarayan starting minutes allows them to find their match legs with everyone else on the field. For Nagbe, giving him the start can give the team a chance to find that lost consistency in possession. Seeing him start makes sense, but a second half substitution for Alashe or Morris would not come as a surprise.
For the No. 10 role, Santos or Zelarayan should start. The same rationale could work for Zelarayan getting starting minutes, but with the amount of talent at the winger position, it’s not necessary to start both Santos and Zelarayan. Zelarayan see the field, but it may not be until the second half.
Etienne Jr. and Diaz are two spots that are the toughest to choose. With Boateng getting two starts, and performing well against NYCFC, seeing him in the starting 11 would be far from a shock. With the team having five substitutes to use, even if Porter won’t use them all, will see all four wingers be on the pitch at some point tonight.
One of those five may be with Room. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to have him only play one half, but the first half could be a test with Andrew Tarbell to step in if needed, which is a role he’s done well in during this odd season.
Soon we’ll see who Porter chooses. Check back after the match to choose your Supporters’ XI for the next match against D.C. United, on Wednesday.