After what felt like an unbearably long stretch of offensive doldrums, the Columbus Crew finally found winning ways, winning the inaugural Hell is Real Derby match at Lower.com Field last Friday night. A couple of brilliant Miguel Berry goals helped Columbus make Ohio black and gold again.
As the Crew looks to build on the team’s success, the Black & Gold head to Florida to take on the third-place team in the Eastern Conference, Orlando City SC with a depleted team sheet.
Head coach Caleb Porter has not been able to field his preferred full team very often this season. Between injuries and international duty, key players have constantly missed for Columbus. This game is no different.
Captain Jonathan Mensah and midfielder Liam Fraser are both away with their respective national teams for World Cup qualifying play. Meanwhile, a lengthy list of injuries keeps the likes of Kevin Molino, Gyasi Zardes, Perry Kitchen and Marlon Hairston out for the game. Those are all huge holes in incredibly important parts of the pitch for the Crew.
Lining up a competitive starting 11 will test the club’s depth and talent pool. How the supporters want the Black & Gold line up tonight against Orlando City?
It is very hard to argue with most of these choices. If the Crew has some talented depth left, it is at attacking mid, which does provide Porter with some options elsewhere on the pitch. Derrick Etienne getting the start in midfield would allow Pedro Santos to drop back to left back in a line with Aboubacar Keita, Josh Williams (who is questionable after being out for months) and Harrison Afful. Without Artur, Kitchen or Fraser, defensive midfield depth is incredibly thin. Rookie Isaiah Parente gets the start next to experienced talent Darlington Nagbe.
Joining Etienne on the wing is Luis Diaz and continual team stand out Lucas Zelarayan. In the forward position, Bradley Wright-Phillips get the edge over last match’s star, Miguel Berry.
Many of the choices make themselves. With so many key players unavailable, depth is extremely limited. Here is your Massive Report Predicted XI:
As previously mentioned, it is difficult to argue with large parts of the Supporters’ XI. Between lack of depth and recent play, many of the names are the same in the Predicted XI.
While Marlon Hairston or Milton Valenzuela might otherwise get the nod in the fullback position, they aren’t available. So Santos, who has been serviceable at left back, joins Afful.
The midfield looks identical, as there aren’t many other options. The biggest difference is at forward. There was a lot of hype surrounding the signing of Wright-Phillips in the offseason. As one of the most prolific goal scorers in MLS history, it is easy to see why. His expected performance would have been crucial to a Crew team struggling offensively while starting striker Gyasi Zardes was with U.S. Men’s National Team.
Unfortunately, Wright-Phillips has been a shadow of his previous self and has not produced in the way Crew supporters expected. With Zardes out again, this time with an injury, Berry put on a show against FC Cincinnati and definitely earned the starting nod at forward. While less experienced than Wright-Phillips, he has shown nothing but potential and outright ability. The Crew will require an offensive spark if they want to build on the success from Hell is Real.