Another game, another shot at predicting the starting XI. This year, injuries and an irregular schedule has made predicting a Columbus Crew SC starting lineup as easy as predicting a Magic 8-Ball. In what might ordinarily be a fairly consistent team, there are several wild cards. But even with some heavy rotation in a lot of the positions, some spots are near locks.
Naturally, captain Jonathan Mensah has started nearly every game for the Black & Gold this season. Additionally, Gyasi Zardes and Eloy Room have manned the front and back of the formation respectively.
In between those constants, there are some regularly irregular spots. The three attacking midfielders have had the most variation on the field. A Lucas Zelarayan injury and the early success of Youness Mohktar have thrown wrenches in the plan.
This week, let’s focus on some of those question marks. First, how did the nearly 400 supporters who voted set up their starting XI?
Obviously, the constants are the biggest vote getters. Room, Mensah and Zardes all got more than 99 percent of the vote. Additionally, mainstays Milton Valenzuela, Harrison Afful, Artur and Pedro Santos all received the vast majority of votes.
After that, things got contentious. Fatai Alashe was the favored replacement for the injured Darlington Nagbe, he also received well over 90 percent of the vote. In the midfield, Zelarayan’s injury seem to have concerned a lot of the supporters, as the Designated Player who would normally be a shoe-in received only 67 percent of the vote. Luis Diaz narrowly edged Derrick Etienne Jr. for the third attacking midfield spot. Obviously, formation effects some of the selection. Santos slots in on the left when the predominantly right-sided Diaz starts. Santos is much more diverse and moves according to the needs of the team.
In, the other position of rotation: the second center-back position, fan favorite Josh Williams gets the overwhelming start over rookie Aboubacar Keita.
Here is the Massive report predicted XI:
There are lots of similarities between the Supporters and the Predicted XI. Those aforementioned mainstays find a spot in the rotation. Since Minnesota is one of the few teams the Crew has faced already, and especially since it is one of the few games the Black & Gold hasn’t won, it might be important to look at how the team lined up the last time and how that can be improved.
One of the biggest challenges the Crew faced in its loss in the MLS is Back Tournament knockout stage was MNUFC’s physicality. Minnesota really seemed to slow the pace and efficiency of the Crew’s game with some rougher tactics. Nagbe, showing some uncharacteristic fatigue after the group stage, was not his best in that game. Additionally, Diaz was not able to get his game going either.
For the Predicted XI, look for Mohktar to slot in the left side of the midfield, moving the versatile Santos to the right side. After returning on Saturday, Zelarayan is projected to start and bring some playmaking ability to the lineup. The slightly pacier Keita gets the second center back spot after a fairly good showing against Nashville SC this past weekend.
That being said, with a short week of rest, Caleb Porter may use this opportunity to rotate on the wings with players like Hector Jimenez or Chris Cadden starting over Harrison Afful or Milton Valenzuela. One thing is for sure: it’s impossible to predict!