The Columbus Crew enters the weekend on the heels of an exciting comeback victory. Now, the Black & Gold decides if the result was an anomaly or a step in the right direction. Saturday night, Columbus travels to face the top team in Major League Soccer, the New England Revolution.
Looking only at the standings, it looks like an uphill battle, but the Crew has been in this position a lot lately. The Black & Gold are starting to get healthier, and with that continuity comes the chance to put good performances back-to-back.
Now, Massive Report needs you to choose who’s in the best position to keep Tuesday’s second half momentum going. Before you select your Supporters’ XI, here are some things to consider.
In the first minute of Tuesday’s match, the multi-position-playing Pedro Santos left due to a concussion sustained going for a header at midfield. Santos is out this weekend, but outside of him, there is no one else that’s totally out of selection for Saturday other than the long-term injuries. However, two names are questionable.
Fullback Milton Valenzuela returned to the injury list on Tuesday and remains questionable with a right thigh injury heading into this match, although he was at training on Friday. Joining him is midfielder Lucas Zelarayan, listed as questionable with a left hip injury. The gravity of the match, and the playoff implications that come along with it, may leave few questions on if Zelarayan should start or sit.
For the players not on the injury list, there are three areas of discussion for who should start. The first is at center back. Josh Williams and Vito Wormgoor each have had their time next to captain Jonathan Mensah of late. Wormgoor’s had difficult performances this season but played well against the New York Red Bulls. The Dutchmen is also closest to 90 minutes match fit.
When Williams has been on the field — three appearances so far since returning from injury — the Crew has given up just one goal. Unfortunately, the goal was of his making with a poor pass to goalkeeper Eloy Room that was intercepted by Inter Miami star Gonzalo Higuain.
Offensively, the winger role is a constant area of conversation. Luis Diaz, Derrick Etienne Jr. and Alexandru Matan all have played their fair share in the role. After Matan’s substitute impact in the 2-1 Tuesday victory, he’s propelled into the dialogue around why he should be starting. Matan brings big moments to the match but also leaves a hole defensively. There’s another potential problem on the offensive half of the field too.
If Zelarayan’s injury does keep him out, who starts? Santos is the usual fill-in at the No. 10 position when Zelarayan is out. Will head coach Caleb Porter put midfielder Darlington Nagbe in his place? Nagbe normally plays a more central midfield role of moving the ball downfield than being the key cog in the offense, but Porter’s used Nagbe in the role last year.
Make your picks and Massive Report will share them, alongside picks from a site contributor, before Saturday’s match at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.