At the release of the Major League Soccer schedule each season, there are a few matches that stick out. An MLS Cup Final rematch is one of the matches highlighted, but this year’s brings concern for Columbus Crew supporters. In this week’s Supporters’ XI, Massive Report wants you to make your starting lineup picks through these concerns.
While Columbus bested the Seattle Sounders on Dec. 12, 2020, Seattle’s trip east comes at a rough time for the Crew. The Black & Gold welcomes the first-place team in the Western Conference on the back of five straight losses. The Sounders come in after dismantling the Portland Timbers on Aug. 15 with a lopsided 6-2 scoreline. In the midweek match, Seattle had a more realistic 1-0 victory over FC Dallas.
On top of facing an in-form Sounders team, inconsistency of lineup and injury issues have plagued Columbus. Friday, the Black & Gold released the team’s updated injury report, and there isn’t much reprieve. The one positive is that winger Luis Diaz moved from out to questionable after taking a bad fall on his shoulder against Atlanta United on Aug. 2.
The injury report also requires some more creativity in lineup selection. Midfielder Marlon Hairston is still out, leaving a hole next to position-mate Darlington Nagbe. Liam Fraser featured in the position during the past two matches and is a likely choice for Saturday, but there’s also youngster Isaiah Parente, who could bring extra offensive help for a team that hasn’t scored in two straight.
On defense, center backs Jonathan Mensah and Aboubacar Keita started the last two games, but 2020 signing Vito Wormgoor is now healthy. Head coach Caleb Porter could swap out Keita for the veteran Wormgoor, although the Crew has only given up two goals in the past two matches. That’s a vast improvement over the 11 allowed in the three matches prior.
At fullback, Saad Abdul-Salaam and Waylon Francis got the starting nod against the New York Red Bulls. That pairing could continue, or Harrison Afful could return from the bench to start for the first time since the August 7 loss to Atlanta.
Up front, Gyasi Zardes is now on the report. The U.S. international forward came off in first half stoppage against New York on Wednesday and will now miss time for Columbus.
Zardes’ substitute in that match was the regular starting attacking midfielder Lucas Zelarayan. Zelarayan has had a tough spell of form as of late, but that benching felt more like preparing for a three-match week than being replaced for performances. A match of Saturday’s caliber requires an “all hands on deck” mentality to compete.
Look at the choices below and decide who you want to start Saturday. Your picks, alongside those from a Massive Report contributor, will go out before Saturday’s match.