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Predicted XI: FC Cincinnati

See who you, the supporters, chose to start tonight’s Hell is Real rivalry match

Ralph Schudel - Massive Report

There’s nothing like a rivalry match to turn a bad stretch around. The Columbus Crew and FC Cincinnati each have that opportunity tonight at Lower.com Field. The Hell is Real Derby renews and, for the first time, the takes place at the Crew’s brand new downtown Columbus home.

Massive Report wanted to know who you think should start the match. And for the first time in a while, it was slightly easier to make decisions. That ease came through the ever-growing injury list for the Black & Gold. Here’s who you decided should start against Columbus’ neighbors to the south.

Supporters’ XI

This week, it was announced midfielder Kevin Molino tore ACL, leaving him out for the rest of the season. With Molino’s absence, and seven other players joining him on the injury report, supporters selected wingers Alexandru Matan and Pedro Santos to push the attack forward instead of Luis Diaz or Derrick Etienne Jr.

At this point in the season, the productivity of Matan, Diaz and Etienne have been interchangeable. Diaz has shined in moments, but finishing hasn’t been his strong suit. Matan is looking for his first goal of the season and against a rival is a great way to find it.

Up top, forward Miguel Berry has fans’ confidence. The July 9 Hell is Real hero received over 50 percent of the supporter vote over Bradley Wright-Phillips. That first MLS goal for Berry, as a substitute in the Crew’s comeback with a man down has definitely surrounded the youngster with an aura of “let’s see what else he can do.”

On defense, the big choices are at fullback and the second center back position. Vito Wormgoor got fans’ selection over Aboubacar Keita even though Wormgoor was part of the late match collapse in the 2-1 loss to the Seattle Sounders.

At fullback, veterans Harrison Afful and Waylon Francis are in the supporters’ starting 11, but it was close. Afful, Francis and Saad Abdul-Salaam were within a couple of supporter selections from shifting from bench to starter. On the field, Afful has fallen out of the consistent starting defender role that the Ghanaian has held since he joined the club in 2015.

Let’s compare your picks to Massive Report’s predicted lineup.

Predicted XI

There are three differences between fans’ picks and Massive Report’s. With all the talk about consistency, the defense remains the same as last match in the prediction. It’s the offense that is switched up.

Columbus has one goal in the past three matches, so nobody’s job up top is safe. Midfielder Lucas Zelarayan played only 30 minutes in Wednesday’s MLS All-Star Gasme against the Liga MX All-Stars. That means a start is likely, but it will be no shock if Zelarayan doesn’t get the entire 90.

Diaz didn’t start against the Sounders but has been the most dangerous for the Crew. He’s found his scoring against Cincinnati before, most notably his memorable strike in 2019. If Diaz doesn’t get the job done, Matan and Etienne will see the field.

Up top, Wright-Phillips gets the selection. The MLS goal-scoring legend gets streaky with his finishing and that one goal in the last three was from his boot. With Gyasi Zardes out with injury, it’s a toss-up between Berry and Wright-Phillips.