Columbus Crew SC ended the group stage of the MLS is Back Tournament unscathed, at least in the standings. The team won Group E with three wins, nine points and a goal differential of +7 while not giving up a single goal in its three matches. The roster did not come away without a few concerning injuries.
In the 4–0 win against FC Cincinnati, the Crew lost defender Vito Wormgoor to an ankle injury that will leave him off the field for at least the rest of the tournament. The Black & Gold’s 2-0 victory against New York Red Bulls left the club without goalkeeper Eloy Room in their last group match win against Atlanta United, and likely the upcoming knockout round contest against Minnesota United.
Tuesday’s 1-0 win against Atlanta saw the club lose another 2020 starter in winger Youness Mokhtar. While no official report has been made by the team, head coach Caleb Porter does not see him suiting up against Minnesota.
Columbus’ success on the field has included a deep roster stepping up to take control of injury-induced opportunities, and that was the theme on Tuesday night with goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell.
Mokhtar provided the only goal of the match, with a deflected 18th minute goal, that came from a 19-pass build-up. Derrick Etienne was brought in for the injured Mokhtar in the 44th minute. While injuries have not been great for the team, one bright spot on the roster’s health was Milton Valenzuela’s return from injury. He was the final pass of the 19 before the goal, giving him an assist to Mokhtar.
Tarbell was the story of the second half. Atlanta had a lot of offensive troubles, but when the team did get the ball into Columbus’ 18-yard box, Tarbell was there to stop it. He made his mark on free kicks and in the run of play. His biggest save of the night came in stoppage time, as he kicked deflected away a shot in a lot of traffic in the 94th minute to secure the victory.
Minnesota will be a challenge for the Crew. United comes off a 2-2 draw against the Colorado Rapids, alongside another draw and win in the group stage.
There are some tough decisions for Porter to make this week, with an eye on moving on in the MLS is Back Tournament. A win on Tuesday won’t get the club anymore points for the MLS regular season table, but there is a CONCACAF Champions League spot, a trophy and a nice bonus on the line.
Tell Porter who you would start for this match’s Supporters’ XI. Before Tuesday’s match, Massive Report will share your picks and the XI of a writer from the site.