The 2021 season has been full of injuries for the Columbus Crew and, despite seeming to go away from a brief period, they are not stopping now. With just four games left to go in the Major League Soccer regular season, the Black & Gold will be without the team’s top striker Gyasi Zardes. The American international is set to miss two to four weeks, per head coach Caleb Porter, with a Grade 2 MCL sprain on his left knee. Zardes sustained the knee injury at the end of the first half of the Crew’s 1-1 draw with Nashville SC.
This update means it’s possible Zardes could miss the remainder of the MLS regular season for the Crew as well as selection for the United States Men’s National Team November matches in FIFA World Cup qualifying.
In speaking to the media on Friday ahead of the Black & Gold’s game against the New York Red Bulls this weekend, Porter said received the news that morning from his trainer about Zardes’ injury.
“We will get him PRPed (Platelet-Rich Plasma treatment) today. He is looking at probably a couple of weeks,” the head coach said.
Zardes has been in top form for Columbus of late with five goals in his last five matches, including two braces against CF Montreal and Inter Miami. Both two-goal performances for Zardes earned him MLS player of the week honors.
For the season, Zardes leads the Crew with nine goals scored in 21 games played, 18 starts.
The timing couldn’t be worse for the Black & Gold with the team in the midst of an intense stretch of matches to try and make the MLS Cup playoffs. The striker spot will now be occupied by one of Miguel Berry, Bradley Wright-Phillips or Erik Hurtado. In all likelihood, the rookie Berry will get the nod at the No. 9 position after some clutch performances throughout the season.
“He’s playing really well,” Porter said of Berry on Friday. “Even when he went in the game (against Nashville), obviously set up the goal. He is moving well, he is a great kid, he defends really well like Gyasi and, as you know, around goal he is very good in the box.”
Berry was drafted by the Crew in the first round of the 2020 MLS SuperDraft and has been a cult hero for Black & Gold fans in 2021. The 24-year-old Spaniard has cemented himself as the backup striker for the squad with his impact goals as a substitute with five goals, third-best on the team, and one assist this season. The last time Berry scored was a game-winner against the Red Bulls in August.
Even with Zardes out, Porter and his team feel Columbus’ consistent play can get this team to the playoffs.
“I think what I like right now is for the first time all year, you can see we are in a rhythm and we are executing in a pretty consistent way. We’re just gonna keep rolling with what we feel is our best group. This is a must-win game,” said Porter.