On Wednesday night, the Columbus Crew looks to continue the string of success that has endured several injuries and international duty complications in a trip to the Philadelphia Union. It’s what some call a six-point match, with the two teams separated by just one point in the Eastern Conference standings.
While several key members of the squad are starting to return, some question marks still remain. This will be the second of three games in eight days for the Black & Gold, including an emotional game on Saturday closing out historic Crew Stadium and the first ever game against Austin FC on the road on Sunday. Some rotation will be required to survive the next couple of matches, but the five days of rest following the Austin game will provide some respite.
Let’s look at how you, the supporters decided to line up against Philadelphia.
Left back Milton Valenzuela was listed as questionable on the most recent injury report, but the voters were still skeptical as MLS Team of the Week fullback Pedro Santos joins Harrison Afful, Josh Williams and Jonathan Mensah in the back four. Santos, known for his versatility, albeit normally in the midfield, availed himself quite well in the 2-0 victory against Chicago. While he did earn 49 percent of the vote in the midfield, Santos outpaced Saad Abdul-Salaam in the fullback position by more than 5 percent.
With things a little sparse in the fullback position, head coach Caleb Porter has been inventive but has not consistently put a single midfielder at full back. Meanwhile, in the midfield, the central pairing of Liam Fraser and Darlington Nagbe carry over from the previous match. Artur, Nagbe’s usual partner is still listed as out on the latest injury report, and usual backups Perry Kitchen is questionable and Aidan Morris is out of the rest of the season, so Porter will once again be creative.
Up front, Lucas Zelarayan was one of the biggest vote-getters. On either side of the No. 10, Derrick Etienne Jr was an overwhelming favorite and Alexandru Matan narrowly edged out Santos (who was slotted in at left back). The hero of Saturday’s game, Gyasi Zardes, starts at striker. Bradley Wright-Phillips is still unavailable, so the Crew’s usual forward will most likely get the start.
Some match congestion and injuries to key players make predicting a starting lineup very challenging, here is your Massive Report Predicted XI:
Overall, the Predicted XI looks very similar to the Supporter’s XI with the only difference coming on the left side of the field. Natural full back Abdul-Salaam gets the start at left back, while Santos moves into more familiar territory in the attacking midfield.
At some point, more rotation will be required. One of the most likely spots is at center back. Vito Wormgoor or Aboubacar Keita may get some game time in the next two matches. Luis Diaz and Kevin Molino will almost assuredly play a part at some point.
Even without the luxury of a locked-in starting 11, the Crew looks to build on success and maintain the team’s winning ways.