After another disappointing loss, the Columbus Crew heads back to the Sunshine State, this time to take on Orlando City SC’s South Florida rivals, Inter Miami. Heading into a run of three games in one week, the Crew sits in the familiar position of just outside of the MLS Cup playoff picture, with the potential to claw back in with a win. This group of games may make or break the Black & Gold’s season, either putting them back into playoff contention or putting too much distance between the team and the top seven in the Eastern Conference.
On Saturday, the Crew takes on an Inter Miami who sit one point behind Columbus in the standings. Inter has had a fairly successful August and early September, having netted 14 points out of a possible 21, which has gone a long way in bringing the team up out of the hole dug at the beginning of the season. While it would be redundant to say this is another must-win game for the Black & Gold, the next three points will be huge in deciding who is in the MLS Cup playoffs and who is watching from home.
Thankfully, the Crew looks to have a few more reinforcements returning to the lineup after a season of injuries. Midfielders Luis Diaz and Marlon Hairston are listed as questionable heading into this match, as are left back Milton Valenzuela and forward Gyasi Zardes.
Even some time out of either Valenzuela or Zardes could bring a crucial pick me up to the Columbus offense, which has sorely missed the firepower both could provide. With Valenzuela potentially returning to as the usual first-choice left back, winger Pedro Santos is free to move back up into the midfield, where he can be far more dangerous. Additionally, Valenzuela can bring his own offensive prowess, creating more opportunities than the Crew has been able to put together in the string of disappointment. A healthy Zardes getting on the end of Valenzuela’s crosses might just be the tonic for the Black & Gold’s offensive paucity. That is, if theses players are available.
The return of Liam Fraser from international duty will be a much-needed boost to Columbus’ defense, which is suffering the loss of Jonathan Mensah (still in quarantine following international duty), and the overall lack of defensive strength shown in the last several matches.
With all of that in mind, who would you, the supporters, start in this crucial match in Miami? Vote below and results will be published (as well as a Massive Report Predicted XI) before the match on Saturday.