On Sunday, the Columbus Crew secured a spot in the MLS Cup Final, the third league final in club history and second to be played at MAPFRE Stadium, with a 1-0 victory against the New England Revolution. The Crew welcome the Seattle Sounders to Columbus on Saturday in a match that will see either Columbus add a second star above the team’s crest or Seattle winning the team’s third MLS Cup in four years.
Tuesday night, Seattle found itself down 2-0 until the 75th minute when forward Wil Bruin scored two minutes after coming into the game as a substitute. Fourteen minutes later, the Sounders came back from a two-goal deficit to even the score off a Raul Ruidíaz goal. The match didn’t make it to extra time time, as midfielder Gustav Svensson scored a headed goal off a corner kick.
Columbus has seen the Sounders before, back in March of this season. In the final game before the season was delayed due to COVID-19, the Crew traveled to Seattle and came away with one point after Gyasi Zardes goal and a 79th minute penalty kick by Ruidiaz.
Throughout the 2020 MLS season, Massive Report has asked you to choose your preferred starting lineup for the Crew. For the final time this season, we want to know who you think should start the most important match of the season.
A consistent lineup has seen the field since the beginning of November. Jonathan Mensah, Josh Williams, Harrison Afful and Milton Valenzuela have been the back four. In the midfield, Eastern Conference Final game-winning goal scorer Artur has played alongside Darlington Nagbe. Offensively, MLS Newcomer of the Year Lucas Zelarayan has provided an offensive spark through his movement on the field and distribution to the players around him. Midfielder Pedro Santos and forward Gyasi Zardes have accounted for four of the six playoff goals.
The only two positions where there have been questions are goalkeeper and the second offensive wing role.
To say that Luis Diaz has been a backup for Derrick Etienne Jr. during his time on the medically unable to play list wouldn’t be completely true. While head coach Caleb Porter preferred Etienne at the end of the regular season, Diaz is no stranger to starting on the offensive wing. The Costa Rican has played in all but two matches for the Crew this season with four assists.
Eloy Room has anchored the defense in goal in every match this season where he was healthy. After the first round of the MLS Cup playoffs, where Room and the Black & Gold won 3-2 against the New York Red Bulls, he was put on the medically unable to play list, only just being removed shortly before Sunday’s victory. In his absence, Andrew Tarbell has two clean sheets and eight total saves in Room’s absence.
This leaves Porter, and you, with a big decision. Do Room and Etienne get their starting roles back if they’re fit to play? Have Tarbell and Diaz done enough to make the decision more difficult for Columbus?
Another question comes in availability of players. The team announced Wednesday that one player received a positive COVID-19 test, with no other positives coming out of Monday and Tuesday’s testing. There is no word on who the player is, but the Black & Gold also announced that six players returned to training today and Massive Report confirmed a seventh player will return on Thursday.
Make your picks and Massive Report will share the lineup, alongside picks from a Massive Report contributor, prior to Saturday’s kickoff.
Watch the MLS Cup Final Saturday, at 8 p.m. EST on FOX to see who lifts the MLS Cup.