On Friday, the Columbus Crew takes on New York City FC for the third and final time this season. While there are still a big names out on international duty, and a few missing from injury, the matches go on.
Massive Report asked you to decide who you think should start the match for the Supporters’ XI. Let’s see who you selected before head coach Caleb Porter shares his picks before the 7:30 p.m. ET kickoff.
Defensively, two names are down on this roster in permanent ink: goalkeeper Eloy Room and center back Jonathan Mensah. Every other position on the backline is up for discussion. For this match, supporters selected Josh Williams. The Columbus veteran is still listed on the injury report as questionable with an ankle injury. Williams hasn’t seen the field on the field since June 19, but since he’s questionable, there’s still a chance he could play.
At the two fullback positions, attack-minded midfielder Pedro Santos and Saad Abdul-Salaam were chosen. Santos has filled the fullback position admirably since both left backs Milton Valenzuela and Waylon Fracnis have missed time this season. Abdul-Salaam and Santos both started at fullback in the 1-0 victory against Atlanta United last week.
In the defensive midfield, Darlington Nagbe and Perry Kitchen were selected. Each brings a calm, veteran mind to the midfield and it’s hard to imagine Nagbe ever sitting on the bench healthy. It’s unlikely to see Kitchen, however, after he left the OhioHealth Performance center on Thursday on crutches after an accident in practice.
In front of those two are Lucas Zelarayan, Alexandru Matan, Kevin Molino and Bradley Wright-Phillips. Zelarayan has been a thorn in New York City’s side this season, scoring three of his team-record five free kick goals against the Pigeons. Against Atlanta, Molino had his strongest match for the Crew to date, alongside Matan, who’s getting closer to his first goal in black and gold.
Forward Gyasi Zardes is still unavailable and after he scored the winning goal in the United States’ 1-0 against Qatar in the Gold Cup semifinals. In his place, fans selected Wright-Phillips.
Let’s compare your selections to those from a Massive Report contributor.
Some names repeat from the supporters’ predictions. Room, Mensah, Nagbe and Zelarayan are easy picks, and even Santos at fullback makes sense, even more sense this week with the return of another Crew winger.
On the backline, Aboubacar Keita has a strong argument to keep his spot next to Mensah. The youngster and Mensah have kept out all but one shot since Keita came in for Vito Wormgoor in the Hell is Real Derby comeback against FC Cincinnati. Keita is healthy and getting stronger in his role as a starter. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Keita cements himself in the role before the season’s end.
In the midfield, Hairston gets the nod over Kitchen. Hairston had a couple of missed chances against Atlanta, but his play off the ball has stood out since making his Crew debut. Allowing him to play alongside Nagbe gives a stronger offensive threat than Kitchen in the same role.
In the attack, the only change from the Supporters’ XI is Luis Diaz for Matan. Diaz returns from international duty after Costa Rica was knocked out of the Gold Cup by Canada.