After one of the biggest wins of the season against the Philadelphia Union on Sunday, the Columbus Crew travels to Orlando City SC for the next match of a huge final week of the regular season. In a rescheduled game of a previously postponed match due to positive COVID-19 tests, the Crew will play the second of three games in a week.
With playoff seeding in the balance, both of these games — Atlanta United comes to MAPFRE Stadium on Sunday — are crucial for the Black & Gold. But game congestion will challenge the Crew’s depth.
Let’s look at who you, the supporters chose to line up in Florida tonight.
In a side almost identical to Caleb Porter’s starting lineup against the Union on Sunday, this group is probably close to the team’s preferred starting 11. Center back Josh Williams returns from his four-game suspension and immediately takes 97 percent of the vote alongside captain Jonathan Mensah. Milton Valenzuela and Harrison Afful fill out the back four.
The midfield is built with Darlington Nagbe and Artur centrally, who both received 99 percent of the vote. In fact, the only midfielder not receiving that level of support was Derrick Etienne Jr, who still was the clear choice on the right side. The young attacker had a solid performance Sunday in place of Luis Diaz, and was the overwhelming preference of the supporters, grabbing 95 percent of the vote.
Once again, mainstays Gyasi Zardes and Eloy Room overwhelmingly remained the preference in the front and the back.
For the most part, the Predicted XI does not differ much from the Supporters’ XI. The spine of Room, Mensah, Nagbe and Artur remain. Additionally, playmakers Pedro Santos, Lucas Zelarayan and Zardes all get the choice.
With three games in one week, Porter will need to balance rotation and putting out the strongest possible lineup with so much on the line. Really either side of the fullback position could see some rotation but with Valenzuela having a little foul trouble last game, Hector Jimenez gets the start.
Similarly, in the midfield, Youness Mokhtar could push Santos to the right side or Diaz could get the start on the right side of Zelarayan. Porter is going to want to know where his depth lies and starting Emmanuel Boateng against Orlando would give the winger another opportunity to prove himself for the playoff push.
Look for some early substitutions if the game gets out of the hand either way. A strong lineup featuring small pockets of rotation combined with some substitutions should be Porter’s philosophy to see out the regular season.