In the penultimate match at historic Crew Stadium, the Columbus Crew takes on Toronto FC on the eve of a nearly three-week break. This Trillium Cup showdown features two sides that are limping into the time off. Both Columbus and Toronto endured laborious CONCACAF stall-outs and some tough MLS battles with varying degrees of success.
Toronto came out on top in the previous matchup between these two teams, whiel the Crew currently holds the edge on points in the standings. Both sides will be hoping for signs of improvement before embarking on the meat of their MLS schedule.
For the Black & Gold, Caleb Porter’s side looks to build on the victory last Saturday where Lucas Zelarayan carried Columbus to a 2-1 victory against New York City FC. With almost three weeks before the next game, and several players set to return from injury on the other side of the break, Porter can set out his strongest available starting 11.
Massive Report asked you to pick who you would start against TFC. Let’s see what you, the supporters selected for your starting 11:
Several key players, including Marlon Hairston and Kevin Molino, are on the precipice of return. In fact, Porter indicated that we might see them later in June. In the meantime, it is hard to argue against this as the strongest side the Crew could send out against Toronto. In the back, Eloy Room is joined with captain Jonathan Mensah and fan-favorite Josh Williams. With Milton Valenzuela still not ready to return, Waylon Francis joins Harrison Afful in the fullback spots.
In the midfield, Darlington Nagbe and Artur are easy selections for their usual spots. Last week’s MLS Player of the Week, Lucas Zelarayan, gets the usual nod in between Pedro Santos and Luis Diaz. While it will be interesting to see how Porter balances the attacking midfield position once Molino is healthy, right now this is probably the strongest attacking group. As normal, Gyasi Zardes fronts the Black & Gold.
Certain key injuries, combined with some forthcoming extended time off narrows the probable choices. This is a good problem to have. Some semblance of stability is key as the Crew looks to bolster its offensive output in the midst of a fairly paltry run of form. The Massive Report Predicted XI does not take any liberties:
One of the obvious preseason goals for president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko and his front office team was developing depth. And while several of the key offseason acquisitions have yet to make significant appearances, the Crew has been able to maintain relative stability in the team’s starting 11. And even though Columbus is far from its previous-season form thus far, the Black & Gold have not dug themselves too deep a hole while they wait for the likes of Molino and others to return. There is not much room or reason to deviate from this starting 11. Derrick Ettiene Jr. or Alexandru Matan might fight for Diaz’s role, but it’s tough to take the Costa Rican out when he adds such energy and potential.
Whoever starts for the Crew will need to tap into their offensive chemistry from early in the season if they are to avenge the earlier defeat to Toronto and start the farewell festivities for historic Crew Stadium off with a bang.