The Columbus Crew return from the last regular season international break, and have 22 days to make the playoffs. Columbus is six points away from the final, seventh, playoff position with six matches to go. While the Black & Gold aren’t mathematically eliminated, the numbers aren’t in their favor.
Tonight is the Crew’s first chance to make a dent in that deficit, when Inter Miami CF plays their first match at Lower.com Field. Columbus needs to show vast improvement from their 3-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union in their last match. To do that, Massive Report asked you who you think should start, in the Supporters’ XI. Here are your picks.
Starting at the back, you chose goalkeeper Eloy Room to return from injury. Room finished the 1-1 draw against first place New England Revolution on September 18 with a thigh injury. The number one keeper is listed as questionable.
Without him, veteran Evan Bush likely starts, and outside of the poor team performance against Philadelphia, Bush won his two starts prior to that trip.
At center back, captain Jonathan Mensah is out, returning from World Cup Qualifying for Ghana. In his absence, Josh Williams and Aboubacar Keita get your confidence. Columbus used three center backs in their last two matches, with mixed results. It makes sense to scrap that formation without the number one center back Jonathan.
At fullback, club legend Harrison Afful and Milton Valenzuela made the Supporters’ XI. In the midfield, Liam Fraser got the nod over Marlon Hairston, who has played that spot next to Darlington Nagbe, when healthy.
At the attacking midfield positions, an odd choice with Derrick Etienne Jr. and Luis Diaz. What makes it peculiar is the absence of midfielder Pedro Santos. The Portuguese utility man has played almost everywhere on the pitch this season, but with six matches left you opted for Diaz and Etienne. Both wingers play their fair share of minutes, but not usually at the same time, unless injuries force the issue.
Let’s see how your choices compare with Massive Report’s prediction.
There are a few differences between the two predicted starting lineups. The first is at fullback. Steven Moreira has head coach Caleb Porter’s confidence, with Moreira starting two matches in a row just after joining the team. Afful coming in the second half has revitalized his performances of late. He shined especially in the 2-0 Campeones Cup win against Liga MX side Cruz Azul.
At midfield, there are some givens with Lucas Zelarayan, Nagbe and Santos, but everything else is a bit more fluid. While Fraser stands out in his performances at defensive midfield, Hairston is Porter’s usual pick next to Nagbe. Either one starting wouldn’t come as a shock though.
At winger, Diaz and Santos make sense, but Etienne over Diaz wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Diaz has yet to score in the Crew’s new home of Lower.com Field.
Columbus and Miami play tonight, at 6:00 p.m. ET. Follow Massive Report for more from the match.