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Supporter XI: Atlanta United

Choose the starting lineup for Columbus’ final MLS is Back group stage match

New York Red Bulls v Columbus Crew

There may be something to these late-night Columbus Crew SC matches. In the team’s second group stage match of the MLS is Back Tournament, Columbus answered the big question that came from the 4-0 win against FC Cincinnati: is the Crew really good or is Cincinnati really bad? The Crew looks really good.

The Black & Gold came out against a dangerous, fast-paced New York Red Bulls squad and earned a 2-0 victory, three more points and secured a spot in the knockout round of the MLS is Back Tournament. The team’s defensive effort also resulted in New York not having a single shot on goal.

Here is who you wanted Caleb Porter to start on Thursday evening:

Five of the starters fans chose made the starting XI. With the morning FC Cincinnati 1-0 victory over struggling Atlanta United, Porter mixed up the lineup to keep legs fresh. Chris Cadden and Pedro Santos set Gyasi Zardes up in the 22nd minute with fine passing that led to the first Columbus goal.

One starter that may have surprised supporters was Derrick Etienne. He had a strong first Crew start, providing pace up the wing. Seven minutes after the Zardes goal, Etienne missed a golden opportunity set up by a the forward’s breakaway. As the goalkeeper rushed the attacking Zardes, he passed to what looked like an unexpected Etienne, and his shot hit the side netting as he was drifting away from the net.

Etienne made up for it though soon after halftime, with an assist to Lucas Zelarayan, who netted his third goal in a Crew uniform.

Another surprise start came in Homegrown midfielder Sebastian Berhalter. The midfielder started with a rough first 15 minutes but cleaned up with a physical performance. He received his knocks from the pressing Red Bulls midfield, but ended his 57 minutes with a strong performance and the most passes of anyone on either side.

Santos returned to the lineup after a minor injury kept him off the roster for the first match of the tournament. He, along with Cadden and Josh Williams, filled the rest of the spots vacated by match day one starters.

Going into the final match of the group stage against Atlanta on Tuesday, the Crew leads Group E with six points on a +6 goal differential. Second place New York is on three points and seven goals behind. Barring a defensive meltdown and the two of the three teams in the group scoring like a seasoned FIFA video game player sliding the difficulty to beginner level, Columbus should walk away with a group victory.

Tuesday will be likely have an interesting lineup, especially with Darlington Nagbe, Jonathan Mensah and Eloy Room showing some wear in the second match.

Who do you want Porter to start in the final group stage match? Fill out your selections below and Massive Report will share your choices, alongside a staff member’s pick.