It’s Decision Day! After what must be the most unusual season in Major League Soccer history, the Columbus Crew find itself controlling its destiny in regards to MLS Cup playoff seeding. With a win, the Black & Gold ensure a spot in the top four of the Eastern Conference if a couple game go the team way, it might even be the third seed.
With almost two weeks of rest before the playoffs begin, the Crew can afford a strong side. That being said, this will be the third game in a week at the end of an extremely compact end of the season and some rotation may be needed.
Let’s look at who you, the supporters chose to line up this afternoon.
The Supporters’ XI is unchanged from Wednesday. Goalkeeper Eloy Room and the back four all received at least 99 percent of the vote, clearly the fans’ first choice. In the midfield, only the right-hand side had any amount of doubt with Derrick Etienne Jr. receiving 94 percent, less than the 99 percent-plus that the rest of the midfield received. Up front, Gyasi Zardes was the consensus starter at forward.
It’s clear that this lineup, or some version of it is the preferred starting XI of both head coach Caleb Porter and the supporters. The Crew will most likely rely on this general lineup for a playoff run. With so much on the line this afternoon, a strong showing is important. Look for Porter to lead with strength.
Center back Josh Williams, coming off a four game suspension did not start on Wednesday. This afternoon would be a great opportunity to get some minutes in his legs before the playoffs. Similarly, in the midfield, Youness Mokhtar can give Pedro Santos some much needed rest. Santos has be a mainstay and a little rotation might give him the reprieve he’s earned.
A lot is on the line this afternoon in regards to seeding and who the Crew will face in the playoffs. A strong lineup featuring small pockets of rotation combined with some substitutions should be Porter’s philosophy to see out the regular season.