The Columbus Crew opens the 2021 Major League Soccer season this Sunday against the Philadelphia Union but will be missing one of the team’s best players. Midfielder Darlington Nagbe will be out for the first MLS contest of the year with a left hamstring injury he sustained in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 game against Real Esteli.
Nagbe was subbed off in the second half of that April 8 match in Nicaragua and was unavailable for the second leg in Columbus this past Thursday from the nagging hamstring. He is currently listed as “questionable” on the team’s injury report for the Union match but head coach Caleb Porter informed the media on Saturday afternoon that Nagbe will not play on Sunday.
“Darlington is progressing really well but he won’t be available for Sunday,” said Porter. “He won’t be quite ready, unfortunately. If the game was two days later then maybe he could play off the bench but he is just too tight and for a return to play from a grade one hamstring, it’s just too early and he won’t be available.”
While Nagbe will be out, the good news is the Crew will have a full week off to prepare and Porter commented early last week that he does not suspect Nagbe will miss more time after the time to rest. That still holds true for Nagbe and Derrick Etienne Jr. who will be available for Sunday’s game despite a right ankle injury also from the match in Nicaragua. This means Nagbe should be ready for the April 28 Champions League quarterfinal game against Monterrey of Liga MX in Columbus.
The Crew’s No. 6 hasn’t played in an MLS match since Dec. 6 when he started in the Eastern Conference Final against the New England Revolution. Nagbe missed out on the Black & Gold’s MLS Cup Final victory over the Seattle Sounders due to health and safety protocols. Nagbe’s play in his first season with the Black & Gold earned him the Crew’s Kirk Urso heart award and the MLS Goal of the Year for his rocket against the Chicago Fire on Aug. 20.
The central midfield spot will be a little thin for the MLS regular season opener with Nagbe joining Aidan Morris on the unavailable list. The club announced Saturday morning that Morris tore his ACL in his left knee and will be out for the remainder of the 2021 season. For Sunday’s match, the central midfield options will be Artur, Perry Kitchen and Isaiah Parente. Artur and Kitchen would be the projected starters against the Union.
Along with Morris and Nagbe, new signing Kevin Molino is sidelined for six to eight weeks as he recovers from a left hamstring issue. Two other new signings, Marlon Hairston and Evan Bush, are also currently ruled out as well with Vito Wormgoor also questionable on the injury list. With just two Champions League matches in the books and no MLS games played, Columbus is already dealing with a handful of injuries.
Columbus’ match against Philadelphia will kick off at 5:55 p.m. ET on Sunday from historic Crew Stadium with a bye week to follow. The following two matches for the Black & Gold will take place within a four-day period with the April 28 match against Monterrey followed by a May 1 MLS road match in Florida against CF Montreal.