The Columbus Crew has been without starting center back Josh Williams for the last two games. The Crew won’t have Williams for two more games either.
Major League Soccer announced on Wednesday that the league has suspended Williams for four total games for violating league rules. Williams has already served two of those games and will now miss the Black & Gold’s next two contests.
No more details on the suspension were provided. A Crew club spokesperson declined to comment on behalf of the club and the player.
Williams came into the year expected to be a back up to starters Jonathan Mensah and Vito Wormgoor. Jonathan is the team’s captain and Wormgoor was the team’s major offseason addition defensively. But Wormgoor suffered an ankle injury during the first game of the MLS is Back Tournament against FC Cincinnati and Williams has stepped in.
So far this season, Williams played in 11 games, starting 10. Partnering Jonathan, the Crew’s center backs have been among the best in MLS in 2020 with the league’s top goals against record at 16 conceded through 19 games played.
Columbus’ defense went on a historic run to start the year, allowing just five goals through the first 13 contests to begin the season. Williams started seven of those matches, stepping in for Wormgoor after the injury and rotating with second-year Homegrown defender Aboubacar Keita.
It was noticeable when Williams was not included in the game day roster for the Oct. 18 match against New York City FC. The Crew managed a 3-1 win that contest, ending a four-game winless run, all games in which Williams featured.
Black & Gold head coach Caleb Porter was asked about Williams and fullback Hector Jimenez, who was not included on the travel roster for Saturday’s 1-1 draw with the Houston Dynamo. Porter gave a round-about non-answer, which is explained now by the league’s announcement.
“I think when you look at windows where you have multiple games you know that in that next game maybe some different guys are starting and some different guys are on the bench and even some guys you won’t bring,” Porter said. “Because if you think about the travel, if a guy is not going to factor in. there is no reason to travel a guy all the way there and get home at 4:00 in the morning, which is when we got home. Especially if guys are gonna play a role in the next game. So, for sure you will see some guys in the next game that are rotated, you’ll see some guys that don’t travel because they aren’t gonna play and we’ll set up the next game. A lot of those decisions are based on that and those factors.”
Keita played against FC Cincinnati on Oct. 14, with Williams coming in off the bench, and has started each of the last two matches during Williams’ suspension.
With Williams missing the last two games, he will only have to serve two more contests now that MLS has announced the suspension. After sitting out the win against NYCFC and the draw at Houston, Williams will miss Wednesday night’s trip to D.C. United and Sunday’s home game against the Philadelphia Union.
The defender will be available for selection once again on Nov. 4 when the Crew travels to play the rescheduled game against Orlando City SC. He will also be able to play in the Black & Gold’s regular season finale at MAPFRE Stadium against Atlanta United on Nov. 8.
Columbus currently sits in third place in the Eastern Conference and is six points behind the Union and Toronto FC for the top spot in the Supporters’ Shield race and the No. 1 overall seed in the MLS Cup playoffs.