The start of a new Columbus Crew season has a spring-like feel. It’s a time for new growth after an offseason where players leave, the team assesses where things went wrong the previous year and starts to see how the next season will fall into shape.
Part of the excitement of 2022 was the return of players from injury. Most notably, midfielder Aidan Morris, who is healthy again after an ACL tear saw him miss the entire 2021 Major League Soccer season. A name that unfortunately won’t enjoy the fruits of successful recovery is Artur.
Thursday, head coach Caleb Porter confirmed what folks on social media have seen over the past few days; Artur is still rehabbing an injury to his hip. Instead of being Central Ohio or Ft. Lauderdale, Florida for the team’s start to the preseason, Artur is working back to full health in Sao Paolo, Brazil at the Instituto Vita prequisa de performance rehab facility, as seen on his personal Instagram stories.
An injury that initially surfaced in the 2020 MLS Cup-winning playoff run, after Artur had previously dealt with hip pain, the Brazilian tried playing through in the 2021 preseason and even during the first part of the regular season. Artur made five starts and had six appearances from April 18 through May 29. After Columbus’ 2-1 defeat to Toronto FC, the Black & Gold shut Artur down for what would end up being the entire season.
The outlook for Artur’s return is not looking good, at least for the start of 2022, so far either.
“We don’t know when he will be back,” said Porter when speaking with the media virtually from Ft. Lauderdale. “He’s still having chronic hip pain, so it’s important to understand that.”
In 2021, Artur’s position alongside midfield star Darlington Nagbe was a revolving door. After Morris’ exit in the home leg of the CONCACAF Champions League match against Real Esteli, the Crew filled the spot with Marlon Hairston, Isaiah Parente, Perry Kitchen and now former Black & Gold midfielder Liam Fraser.
Unlike 2021 though, there is more depth behind Artur this season. In addition to the return of Morris, Hairston, Sebastian Berhalter — who returned from a loan stint at Austin FC — Parente and new Homegrown signing Sean Zawadzki can all step in alongside Nagbe. Porter also shared that the team may not be done in the position. Because, to Porter, it’s all about the midfield.
“We might even be looking to sign a guy if Artur is not looking to be back at the start of the year,” said Porter. “We have to start in that part of the field with talent, strength and quality.”
When looking at the 2021 Crew regular season, when the midfield and central defense had to adapt to injuries, poor results followed. From the end of August through September, Columbus lost eight of 10 matches. In none of those matches did the same starting 11 repeat. Every matchday, a new group of players had to adjust and build chemistry in a live game environment.
It looks like the Crew is going to do all the team can to not repeat that trend in 2022. Instead, Columbus will use a core of young midfielders, or possibly a new signing, to make sure that both Porter, the club and supporters can predict who will be on the field.
Unfortunately, it just may not include Artur for some time.