Saturday will be a historical day for the Columbus Crew, Central Ohio and Major League Soccer as the Black & Gold open brand new Lower.com Field, the team’s second soccer-specific stadium. The eyes of American soccer will be on the Crew, who take on the Eastern Conference-leading New England Revolution.
In one of the most monumental moments in the history of the Black & Gold, head Caleb Porter will be without some key players as he prepares his starting lineup. Wingers Derrick Etienne Jr. and Kevin Molino have already left to join their national teams for Gold Cup play. Additionally, midfielder Artur and forward Bradley Wright-Phillips are both still out with lower-body injuries. Two of the biggest offensive producers for the Crew, forward Gyasi Zardes and winger Pedro Santos, are game-time decisions.
With center back Josh Williams and winger Luis Diaz both still questionable, that is five of the Crew’s strongest players’ availability up in the air.
Porter will earn his pay in the next couple of weeks, as injuries and national team call-ups will truly test the Crew’s depth. But who will the Crew put out against the Revolution? Here is your Supporters’ XI:
Optimism abounds in the Lower.Com Field premier edition of the Supporters’ XI. The backline of Milton Valenzuela, Vito Wormgoor, Jonathan Mensah and Harrison Afful has been a pretty standard defensive wall in the past few matches. Goalkeeper Eloy Room will most likely miss a few future matches with Gold Cup responsibility but gets the start from the supporters.
With Artur out, Darlington Nagbe and Perry Kitchen get the start at defensive midfield. Up front is where wishful thinking takes over. Pedro Santos and Luis Diaz both get the nod on either side of the Crew’s No. 10, Lucas Zelarayan. With Bradley Wright-Phillips still unavailable, Porter really doesn’t have much choice (as long as he’s fit to play) other than Gyasi Zardes.
This optimistic side features several questionable players who will probably not all start. But it’s the new stadium’s opening day, so let’s look on the bright side!
A slightly less optimistic, but still talented side is featured in the Massive Report Predicted XI:
The defensive side of the field is identical to the Supporters’ XI. On the wings, some of the Crew’s depth is featured. Earlier this week, Porter indicated that recent signing, Marlon Hairston Jr. may put in some time in the midfield and Alexandru Matan has gotten his fair share of time on the left wing. With both Diaz and Santos questionable, some depth may be required on the wings.
National team responsibilities, as well as injuries, continue to nag the Crew, but the team is still a talented side that is in the top half of the Eastern Conference.