There is no denying that the last two matches for the Columbus Crew have been less than ideal. Injuries and international duties finally caught up to the Black & Gold in the form of defensive lapses and paltry offensive showings in the past seven days that included a 4-1 defeat to New York City on the road and a 4-2 loss at home to D.C. United.
The Crew looks to more depth against a Josef Martinez-less Atlanta United to help find the team’s winning ways again on Saturday night. Long-term injuries notwithstanding, head coach Caleb Porter’s side is starting to return to what he might have envisioned in the offseason.
We asked our readers to vote on who should star for the Black & Gold against the Five Stripes. Here’s how the supporters voted to line up:
It is hard to argue with this side. Gyasi Zardes, a week back from an impactful run in the Gold Cup with the United States Men’s National Team might be the biggest difference-maker in the Crew lineup. Attacking midfielder Lucas Zelarayan will enjoy a little relief in defensive pressure if he is not the only offensive threat.
The Columbus forward has definitely been missed and was a noticeable shot in the arm coming off the bench against United on Wednesday. Defensive lapses have been costly to the Crew, but so has the anemic offense. A front four of Zardes, Zelarayan, Luis Diaz and a recently surging Kevin Molino spells a much stronger offensive push than Porter has been able to put out in the last several matches.
On the defensive end of the pitch, the supporters would like to see Darlington Nagbe and Liam Fraser at defensive midfield. The backline has a relatively innovative look as well. Pedro Santos has been a revelation at left back with Milton Valenzuela out for such a long stretch and Waylon Francis being less than dynamic recently. While Santos might leave a little bit of defensive liability, the high energy and offensive threat is more impactful than the other options at left back. Additionally, fans hope to see Josh Williams line up next to captain Jonathan Mensah. The fan-favorite might be a welcome change at center back, if he is healthy enough to play, after a couple of errors leading to costly goals on Wednesday.
Obviously, Artur and Valenzuela are still huge pieces missing, but this starting 11 is much closer to what Crew supporters would have imagined going into this season.
Here is how this compares to the Massive Report Predicted XI:
With Zardes and Diaz returning and Zelarayan and Molino continuing to live up to the hype, the Crew’s starting 11 is once again becoming easier to predict. Because of this, the Predicted XI is very similar to the Supporters’ XI.
Up front, Zardes’ much-needed return helps the front four look identical. The only difference is on the backline. With Santos in the left back role, a more traditional defensive-minded center back like Vito Wormgoor provides a little cover for any defensive shortcomings the Portuguese might present. Otherwise, the entire lineup is identical, and for good reason.