One thing that the Phase 1 restart hasn’t allowed for any Major League Soccer team is consistency in lineup. Tonight, Columbus Crew SC will compete in the team’s fourth match in 13 days. After a convincing 3-0 victory against Chicago Fire in the initial restart match, the Crew has one point out of a possible six against two clubs near the bottom of the Eastern Conference table after a loss to New York City FC and a 0-0 draw against FC Cincinnati.
This needed player rotation is not at the best time for Columbus, as the team integrates injured players back into the lineup and try to find that consistency.
With getting back to winning ways on the minds of the Crew supporters, you choose who you wanted to start against the Philadelphia Union in the Supporters’ XI.
Eloy Room, Youness Mokhtar and Lucas Zelarayan all returned from injury in Saturday’s draw in the Hell is Real Derby. Four days later, fans selected Derrick Etienne Jr. to start, opposite Pedro Santos, supporting Zelarayan in the No. 10 role. Luis Diaz did not make the team sheet for the Cincinnati match, but he was chosen with a selection percentage of 54 percent for that match, while Mokhtar only received 11.1 percent of the votes for this game, showing that supporters were not too convinced of Mokhtar’s form after his first match coming back from injury.
The defensive back four did not change, as the captain Jonathan Mensah and Josh Williams were chosen to play between Milton Valenzuela and Harrison Afful. Darlington Nagbe, whose performance so far this season has been praised across the league, tied with the most votes with Room and Mensah.
Outside of Derrick Etienne Jr. over Luis Diaz, Youness Mokhtar or the newcomers Fatai Alashe and Emmanuel Boateng, the lineup is consistent with who Caleb Porter selected in the match over the weekend.
In the three restart matches, four players have started all of them: Jonathan Mensah, Darlington Nagbe, Pedro Santos and Gyasi Zardes. The four have stayed match fit and have the support of Porter. Against the Union, there is a chance that not all of them start in order to set up long-term consistency.
Columbus has another four-day turnaround between this game and Sunday’s match against FC Cincinnati. Looking ahead past this weekend, the team will have six days off before playing Chicago at Soldier Field on Sept. 12th. With a more realistic six-day prep time between the final two Phase 1 restart matches, Wednesday could see players getting a break before being able to use the Crew’s best 11 for two matches in a row.
That does not mean the entire lineup will change. Mensah commands this team’s defense and Nagbe commands just about everything. Fanendo Adi’s minutes on the field have been limited and Zardes has had a successful regular season campaign so far. Santos could be given the night off for the sake of rest. Porter has two new, promising midfielders that are likely hungry to make an impact with their new side.
The team looked different when Etienne, Boateng and Alashe came on the field Saturday. There wasn’t enough to secure a victory, but there was more energy than the match saw up to that point. Boateng has been brought in for every match, since his trade from D.C. United. Porter likes him on the field and it wouldn’t be a shock to see him get the start tonight. A start that doesn’t mean there’s a competition for the starting job, but Porter has wanted depth to make this team more competitive.
Milton Valenzuela has had a tumultuous year-and-a-half with injuries. After the first restart match, both he and Harrison Afful were given the night off. Hector Jiminez is a good candidate to replace Valenzuela before allowing him to play in two straight matches to end the Phase 1 restart.
Giving a couple players the night off, or at least reduced minutes, could go a long way in preparing Columbus for the next phase of matches, which MLS is yet to announce
Watch tonight’s match against Philadelphia Union and see if your selections made the starting XI, and come back to Massive Report in the coming days to fill out the Supporters’ XI for the next match against FC Cincinnati.