Less than a week from a disappointing loss to New York City FC, Columbus Crew SC travels south on Interstate-71 to face their Ohio rivals FC Cincinnati. The Black & Gold and FC Cincy met once already this season, but that was under different circumstances at the MLS is Back Tournament and with two different teams than the ones that will take the field on Saturday.
Injuries and a compressed schedule make prognostication difficult, but once again the supporters found a fairly consistent consensus in their Supporters’ XI:
There were not many changes from the group that played against NYCFC last week. The over 500 supporters made their voice known in regards to center back. Whether it’s a grudge from Aboubacar Keita’s giveaway last game, or a true belief in Josh Williams, the overwhelming majority slotted one Ohio native in for the other.
The hopeful return of Lucas Zelarayan does provide a traffic jam on the right side of the midfield. Pedro Santos and Luis Diaz overwhelmed any other possible options in the offensive half at winger. A few question marks in the midfield notwithstanding, the preferred starting XI has been consistent.
Crew fan hope the return of Zelarayan will bring a return to offensive normalcy required to bring three points home from Nippert Stadium.
Here is how I see the lineup shaping up for Columbus:
The predicted XI looks very similar to the popular vote with a few differences. In the back, Keita gets a chance at redemption while the rest of the back four stays consistent to the usual XI. In the midfield, Darlington Nagbe looks to bring back some stability with Artur. Meanwhile the return of Zelarayan allows Santos to slot back on to the right side and give Diaz some much-needed rest. The young and ambitious Derrick Etienne Jr. handles things on the left side. Gyasi Zardes has a back-and-forth record in the Hell is Real Derby and will look for some offensive consistency on Saturday.
We will find out how Caleb Porter felt when the lineup is announced about an hour from kickoff.