Schedule congestion returns for the Columbus Crew, who play three matches in the next eight days. Choosing a lineup is contingent on putting yourself in the mind of head coach Caleb Porter and how he’ll focus the team. There are a couple of ways he could go.
On one hand, it could be to give your all to the MLS Cup playoff hunt over this stretch and look at Wednesday’s Campeones Cup against Liga MX side Cruz Azul as a match to leave the night with your starters healthy.
The other option has a manager that wants to win every match in front of his team, regardless of competition. After all, adding a trophy against the champion of Liga MX could soften the blow if the playoffs become unattainable.
Here’s the direction that you think Porter is going to go on Saturday night against CF Montreal.
The easiest selection is at goalkeeper. With Eloy Room out with a thigh injury, veteran Evan Bush will start. He was the supporters’ resounding choice for obvious reasons. It gets far less obvious outside of the goal.
On defense, the back four can be tinkered with due to squad depth available. Center backs Jonathan Mensah and Josh Williams are the top choice pairing. Even though there is a match in four days, there’s no doubt that Jonathan would start both and play the full 90. Williams is the question mark, still returning from injury. Vito Wormgoor is unavailable due to health and safety protocol.
Harrison Afful and Milton Valenzuela are the supporters’ fullback picks. Against the New England Revolution last week, both played but one substituted for the other. It’ll be interesting to see who Porter picks for this pairing, but fans’ confidence is in the duo that brought Columbus an MLS Cup in 2020.
Choices get more up in the air in the offensive midfield. Midfielders Pedro Santos, Luiz Diaz and Lucas Zelarayan are all questionable. Each took part in some training this week, but not a full session. With that in mind, supporters selected Zelarayan to return to action but put him with Alexandru Matan and Derrick Etienne Jr. Matan had a string start against the Revolution, but still hasn’t contributed to a goal or an assist, unless you count his shot deflection in the 3-2 victory over the New York Red Bulls.
Up front, Gyasi Zardes has the fans’ confidence, which is warranted. When he’s healthy, he starts.
Now, let’s see how these picks compare with Massive Report’s selections.
There wasn’t a whole lot of confidence from Porter when talking about Zelarayan’s availability this week. This may be a time where the Crew switches to a 4-4-2 formation and gives Zelarayan more time to recover. After all, a similar lineup earned the team a point against New England and the group will be more aggressive against CF Montreal, compared to absorbing a lot of pressure from the Revolution.
In addition to Zelarayan being on the bench, forward Miguel Berry getting another start isn’t a horrible idea next to Zardes. Each had their moments against the Revolution and Berry had a chance to put the Crew ahead.
Marlon Hairston makes sense to start in the midfield. Liam Fraser has come off the bench whenever Hairston is healthy and available to play.
The center back duo of Aboubacar Keita and Jonathan is under the idea that the two playing together can work at home and it allows the Crew to have the team’s best duo of Williams and Jonathan available for Wednesday’s game.
Fans will see who Porter selects when Columbus hosts Montreal at Lower.com Field for a 7:30 p.m. ET kickoff.