It’s no secret the Columbus Crew has missed a number of players over the past several weeks. Despite that, the team has got plenty of points of late, with a result in six of the last seven matches.
Now the Crew is starting to get its roster back to full strength, which is only good news for Columbus.
Over the past three MLS matches, the Black & Gold have missed 11 or 12 players respectively in all areas of the field. To consolidate and make it a little easier, here is a full list of each Crew players that have been ruled out for one of the last three MLS games.
Due to injury: Artur, Aidan Morris, Milton Valenzuela, Josh Williams, Vito Wormgoor, Josh Williams, Bradley Wright-Phillips
International duty: Eloy Room, Gyasi Zardes, Liam Fraser, Luis Diaz, Kevin Molino, Derrick Etienne Jr.
Suspension: Harrison Afful
In summary, 14 total Crew players were unavailalbe at least once over the past three games and in the last two the team has missed at least 11 players. The good news coming out of those last three matches is that Columbus got five points out of a possible nine without many of its top players.
The win against New York City FC was a great triumph for head coach Caleb Porter and his squad with plenty of young players and non-regular starters performing like first-team players to grind out a victory against a solid NYCFC side.
“We got through the last game with a win against a very good team which was the best-case scenario,” said Porter. “We knew we were going to be as thin as ever in that game and it’s incredible we got the three points. It’s a great example we had 12 guys out, key guys, and we were still able to beat one of the best teams in the league.”
The good news is the availability report is starting to shrink with the Crew getting three players back for its upcoming Wednesday match against Nashville SC. Striker Wright-Phillips is off the injury list and, depending on fitness, could begin to start games again while Zardes remains away at the Gold Cup. Wingers Molino and Etienne have returned from the Gold Cup after their nations, Trinidad & Tobago and Haiti, respectively, were eliminated from the competition.
Columbus expects more players to return soon with Williams progressing through his injury and the center back continued to work his way back on Tuesday morning. Zardes, Fraser and Diaz will be back from the Gold Cup no later than early August. The depth of the team is going to return and it certainly helps when the players lower on the depth chart have stepped up to get recent results.
“It’s going to be tougher for me to pick players now when we do get healthy but that is always a good problem,” said Porter “The rest of the year is going to be a grind.”
MLS’s grueling schedule with long travel days and some weeks with three games in seven or eight days can take its toll and the Crew is facing this head on with many players out. If the returning first-team players can maintain their form from international duty while combining with the emerging depth pieces, the MLS Cup champions could finally hit their stride in 2021 at the perfect time as the season hits its mid-point.
“It’s nice to know that you can rotate and not miss a beat,” said Porter.