After missing the last two games with a knee injury, Lucas Zelarayan made his return to the Columbus bench on Saturday night and came into the game in the 70th minute. Zelarayan made use of his 20 minutes of the field, helping the Crew increase the one-goal lead to two by initiating a counter attack in stoppage time and getting a secondary assist on Gyasi Zardes’ goal, finding Artur wide before the central midfielder crossed the to the striker.
While the attacking playmaker was back, the Crew was still without central midfielder Darlington Nagbe, who is also dealing with a knee issue. And it could be a while longer before Columbus fans see Nagbe back on the pitch.
As reported by Massive Report prior to the game, Nagbe had his knee scoped late this week and will miss at least the rest of the scheduled MLS Phase Two games. The Black & Gold host Minnesota United on Wednesday before traveling to Connecticut to take on Toronto FC on UConn’s campus.
Nagbe won’t see action in either game.
“It’s going to be another couple of weeks for Darlington,” Porter said postgame. “So we have to continue to manage that with him. He has a meniscus, so he had a scope yesterday and he’s going to be out two to three weeks.”
With Nagbe out, Fatai Alashe has partnered Artur in the Crew’s central midfield, and performed admirably. The former FC Cincinnati player, who was acquired in a mid-August trade, has now seen action in five games, starting each of the last three, two while Nagbe has been out.
While the Crew was still able to win the game against Nashville, there was much less control. Columbus conceded 58.1 percent of the possession, a rarity for the Black & Gold, especially at home. While some of this was by design, as Porter said the Crew wanted Nashville to see more of the ball, it also had to do with missing Nagbe, one of MLS’s best players in possession.
With a busy and challenging two-game stretch upcoming, and no announcement yet on who Columbus will face beyond next weekend, the league-leading Black & Gold will certainly be happy to have Zelarayan back and healthy but will undoubtedly miss Nagbe’s presence for however long the midfielder is out.
“We have some spokes in the wheel that we’ve been missing but this wheel’s always going roll fast regardless,” Porter said. “We’ve got a strong team. With a strong team, it doesn’t matter if you have missing spokes. You’re still going to keep rolling along and showing that and we’re proud of that.”