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Predicted XI: New England Revolution

New England Revolution v Columbus Crew SC: Eastern Conference Final - MLS Cup Playoffs Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

There’s rest ahead for the Columbus Crew, after a tough stretch of matches for the Black & Gold in a short plan that took the team all over the country. They played in Columbus, Florida, Nicaragua and Mexico. Not only did Columbus earn a ton of frequent flyer miles but also a mixed bag of results on the field. The Crew isn’t looking ahead to their week between matches though because tonight the team plays one of the Eastern Conference's top teams, the New England Revolution.

New England looks to avenge the 2020 Eastern Conference Final 1-0 loss to Columbus, a loss that allowed the Black & Gold to host and win the MLS Cup. Ahead of head coach Caleb Porter’s tough decisions in roster selection, Massive Report asked you who you’d start against a fellow MLS original.

Here’s who you selected.

Supporters’ XI

Your choices are in line with the usual 2020 starting lineup for Columbus, minus injury-induced absences.

Fullbacks Waylon Francis, Saad Abdul-Salaam and Harrison Afful are the three healthy fullbacks. For this game, fans picked Afful and a resurging Francis. The Costa Rican left back played well in the second half against Monterrey and then started the last three matches. He’s a solid choice for Milton Valenzuela, who’s still out injured.

Between the fullbacks are Josh Williams and Jonathan Mensah. Williams is questionable, but not completely out. He didn’t travel to Orlando for their match against Toronto FC. In his place was Vito Wormgoor, who started his second match of the season in the 2-0 loss to Toronto.

Artur and Darlington Nagbe are one of the best midfield duos in Major League Soccer, and Artur isn’t listed on the injury report. Unless there’s a surprise decision, expect both of them in the starting 11.

The last area of real competition is in the winger role. Midfielder Lucas Zelarayan has had Pedro Santos and Luis Diaz on his wings of late, but a knee injury saw Santos miss the last match. Supporters selected this duo on the wings, which is the strongest pairing until injuries subside and new signing Kevin Molino is ready for selection.

At the top is forward Gyasi Zardes. It’s been his position to lose this season, with Bradley Wright-Phillips playing well in the time he’s had on the pitch. To provide an offensive spark, Porter used both in the second half in the Toronto match, but that’s an anomaly. Expect Zardes to start with a week off awaiting the Crew.

Here’s who Massive Report chose.

Predicted XI

There are only two differences between what supporters and Massive Report thinks about the Crew’s lineup. At center back and on the wing.

It’s a toss up between Wormgoor and Williams. Both center backs have starting minutes this season and both have played relatively error-free soccer. With more minutes, Wormgoor is only going to get better. He’s done well at covering a lot of land in the defensive half of the field and his communication with Mensah will improve as they log more minutes alongside each other.

On the left wing, Alexandru Matan is a solid choice. In his first start, he showed the raw talent that supporters have watched on repeat since his signing. Early in the 2-0 loss, he had a curling effort on goal that with a slightly better touch gives Columbus the lead and changes the trajectory of the contest.

Both of these decisions aren’t linked to one player being better than the other. Giving Williams and Santos a match off, or at least getting substitute minutes, gives them a little bit more time to make sure that their injuries causing a questionable selection on the injury report don’t evolve into being out completely. It’s a long MLS season and there’s still plenty of time to leave an impact in the standings.