On Sunday night, Columbus Crew SC faces off against Toronto FC, from the team’s temporary home at the University of Connecticut. It will be a big test against a team that has the second-most points in the Eastern Conference, but in fourth place due to goal differential.
Massive Report asked you to choose who you wanted to start. There were some questions coming into tonight. First, will Fatai Alashe be able to play or will Columbus’ midfield depth be challenged? Also, is Lucas Zelarayan healthy enough to start his second straight match? Has Caleb Porter found his winger of choice in Luis Diaz, after starting three straight matches?
Here is how you answered those questions.
In the 19th minute of Columbus’ 2-1 victory against Minnesota saw Alashe leave the field with an injuy. An injury in which the extent is still unknown. Columbus Homegrown player Sebastian Berhalter came in for the remaining 71 minutes and stoppage time. You chose him to start tonight, with 68.4 percent of the selection total.
MLS Team of the Week players Zelarayan and Pedro Santos both had a goal and an assist against Minnesota, with Zelarayan playing 77 minutes. Nearly all of the voters chose him for the starting lineup, earning 99.3 percent, while all supporters chose Santos. What about that other attacking midfield position?
Diaz earned your selection. While he still hasn’t found a goal, his impact on the field has been noticed on the field, stretching out defenses. Against Minnesota specifically, his play earned the Black & Gold a penalty, missed by Zelarayan, and a late free kick right outside of the 18-yard box.
No other surprises in your choices, with Gyasi Zardes, Eloy Room and the back four staying consistent.
Columbus will be challenged on Sunday. Toronto has made the best of its chances of late and score late in matches. A defensive lapse, like Columbus’ on Wednesday night, can’t be repeated against TFC if Porter’s side expects to come away with three points.
Josh Williams has been Porter’s favorite defender to play alongside captain Jonathan Mensah, with Aboubacar Keita’s defensive error in the New York City FC match leading him to get only one start since Aug. 24. It would be a shock to see anyone but Milton Valenzuela and Harrison Afful playing in the fullback back positions, barring any unknown injuries.
Artur, Santos and Zardes are a shoe-in for getting starting nods. Santos has had Team of the Week caliber performances for the past three matches, and has been a big part of why Columbus hasn’t lost a match since a knee injury sidelined Darlington Nagbe.
The winger position, opposite Santos, is a difficult position to lock down. While Diaz has seen a lot of starts lately, complacency is not the word to attach to this position. Youness Mokhtar hasn’t been the same since coming back from injury and combined with Diaz’s form, it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise to see Diaz start again. Putting Mokhtar in the starting 11 gives Porter a dynamic second half option with Diaz. He can come into the match and exploit tired legs, similar to his performance against FC Cincinnati in the 3-0 victory.
Without access to closed-door team practices, it’s hard to know if Alashe will be able to go. Berhalter has done well in the time he’s received, and if Alashe’s injury stops him from traveling, its Berhalter’s start.
Zelarayan starting again makes sense, especially with his impact offensively. The only question that could come in whether or not he sees the starting lineup is his injury history throughout 2020. If he’s healthy, there is no reason to sit him in a match of this caliber. A short turnaround time, and traveling on the day of the match, is not a good formula for nursing an injury back to good health. With that said, he should start, again barring any unknown setback in training.
We’ll see who Porter chooses in a big match against a playoff contender. Tune in at 7:30 pm. to see if your picks make the starting 11 and check back in the coming days for who you want to start against FC Dallas on Oct. 3.