Gaping holes in the lineup testing depth, grossly under-performing offensive performance and defensive missteps that make supporters shake their heads, the themes for the Columbus Crew have become so repetitive over the recent five-game losing streak. With the Crew firmly in the second half of the season, the Black & Gold sit on just 24 points, nearly half as many as the conference-leading New England Revolution.
With the Seattle Sounders coming to Columbus for the first time since the 2020 MLS Cup Final, the Black & Gold need to start turning things around, and fast.
Unfortunately, The Crew will need to do so without one of its key offensive players. Another common theme for the Black & Gold this season is challenging depth issues and that continues to haunt head coach Caleb Porter as striker Gyasi Zardes went down with a hamstring injury in the 1-0 loss in the midweek. Zardes will possibly be out for the next month, so the anemic Columbus offense will need to find a shot in the arm somewhere else.
With that in mind, here’s how the supporters voted for the Black & Gold to line up in the MLS Cup Final rematch.
In one of the closest votes of the season, rotation abounds in the Supporters’ XI. Saad Abdul-Salaam and Waylon Francis certainly would not be a supporter’s preferred 11 in normal circumstances, but with Milton Valenzuela still out, desperate times call for desperate measures. Aboubacar Keita gets the nod over Vito Wormgoor next to captain Jonathan Mensah, filling out the defensive backline.
Porter does not have many options in the defensive midfield, so Liam Fraser and Darlington Nagbe get the call. The biggest area needing improvement for the Crew is in the offense. The Supporters’ XI brings in young talent in Alexandru Matan and Luis Diaz, who was listed as questionable this week. Hopefully some speed and pace will provide some additional options for the struggling Lucas Zelarayan. Up front, Bradley Wright-Phillips gets the nod for the injured Zardes.
A change in look for the offense is a common thread in the Predicted XI, let’s take a look:
Keita and Mensah, flanked by Harrison Afful and Saad Abdul-Salaam frees Pedro Santos to move forward and resume his role as one of the biggest offensive weapons the Crew currently have. While Santos has been serviceable, if not outright strong in left back, the Black & Gold need offensive options forward to help create opportunities. He is joined in the midfield by Lucas Zelarayan, Luis Diaz, Darlington Nagbe, and Liam Fraser. In his limited time, Miguel Berry has been effective offensively and might provide a little stronger spark than the other striker options.
It is quickly becoming do-or-die time for the Crew if the team hopes to fight to defend its MLS Cup title. Depth is indubitably going to be a continuing issue for Columbus, so it will depend on the squad as a whole to push into the MLS Cup playoffs.