Columbus Crew SC ended the first match of the MLS is Back Tournament with a comfortable lead in Group E. The team’s four-goal victory puts them atop the standings over this week’s opponent, the New York Red Bulls. Massive Report asked you to choose who you wanted to start in the second group stage matchup. Here’s who you chose, along with the percentage of people who chose that player:
Last week, when we asked you to choose the lineup against FC Cincinnati, it didn’t look too different from this week’s XI. One notable exception is Vito Wormgoor, who it was announced earlier this week as being out for the remainder of the tournament due to an ankle injury. Aboubacar Keita took his place in the 17th minute. Supporters selected him over Josh Williams this week, with Williams receiving votes from 22 percent of respondents.
The other newcomer to the lineup is Youness Mokhtar. Both he and Luis Diaz started in place of the injured Pedro Santos, ending the debate over who should start for at least one match. Diaz fell off his perch after being selected by the supporters last week, but only by three votes. Mokhtar’s beautiful 60th minute goal might have had something to do with it. Once the Crew was up in the match, Diaz hunted for the back of the net, but ended the night off the scoresheet.
Another item worth noting is Darlington Nagbe. Massive Report has asked you to pick the starting XI in every match this season, and for the first time a player reached 100 percent. Nagbe has done everything to earn the trust of Crew supporters through his impressive distribution and midfield work.
The Massive Report predicted XI doesn't look too different from the Supporter XI, because it’s the exact same thing. One question going into this week was surrounding squad rotation. the Black & Gold played a late night Saturday night match that stretched into Sunday morning. Thursday’s matchup with the Red Bulls gives the club only five days of rest, but securing three points against New York would guarantee the team a spot in the knockout round of the MLS is Back Tournament.
Sometimes the best way to get your team rest is by winning, and this is one of those cases. If Columbus gets a victory against New York, the starters will have over a weeks worth of rest as Caleb Porter will likely field a lineup without many starters against Atlanta.
The story of 2019, on the field, was thee Crew’s lack of offensive firepower. While the team was a top club in not giving up goals, they struggled to score. Lucas Zelarayan, Gyasi Zardes and Mokhtar gave a hint of what might be to come for this offensive group. If Columbus goes into this match against the Red Bulls and play the game like it’s a must-win match, it should provide the respite the team needs to go into the knockout round refreshed.
FC Cincinnati grabbed the opportunity with two Atlanta red cards, and secured a 1 - 0 victory on Thursday morning. It resulted in a flip-flop at the bottom of the group table for the two clubs. Securing at least a draw tonight will put the Crew in a great position to move forward into the knockout round. Does that change Porter’s strategy going into Thursday’s match? We will soon find out.