It seems like every Columbus Crew game over the last several weeks have featured two defining characteristics. The match has either held franchise historical significance and/or limited options in depth.
Friday night’s Hell is Real Derby against FC Cincinnati is no different. Just a few days from opening the team’s own brand new stadium, the Crew will travel down Interstate-71 for its debut in FC Cincinnati’s brand new TQL Stadium.
Once again, Columbus will do so without some of the team’s biggest names with 11 players out, either on international duty or dealing with some type of injury.
Left back Milton Valenzuela, who recently returned from injury, will once again be out for several weeks with further hamstring complications. Joining him on the injury list is midfielder Artur, center back Josh Williams, who are both out yet again, and forward Bradley Wright-Phillips, who comes into this game questionable.
Further adding to head coach Caleb Porter’s challenge in depth are the six players who are away on international duty for Gold Cup duties with their national teams. It was announced on Wednesday that winger Luis Diaz will join fellow midfielders Kevin Molino, Derrick Etienne Jr. and Liam Fraser at the Gold Cup. Additionally, forward Gyasi Zardes and starting goalkeeper Eloy Room will also play for their national teams.
The Crew finds itself with very limited options, especially on the offensive end of the pitch, but Porter cannot afford to relinquish points in any game. The Black & Gold are now on the outside looking in when it comes to the Eastern Conference playoff picture and games will only become more difficult in the coming months. If Columbus wants a chance at defending the team’s MLS Cup title, the Crew will need to start winning matches, regardless of depth issues.
Who would you send out in the first Hell is Real of 2021? Vote for your starting 11 and we will publish the results before Friday’s match.