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Crew’s Lucas Zelarayán to miss Armenia National Team friendlies with injury

The Black & Gold star won’t travel with his national team after leaving Sunday’s Crew game.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at New York Red Bulls Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

On Sunday, in the final minutes of the Columbus Crew’s 1-1 draw against the New York Red Bulls, midfielder Lucas Zelarayán went to the ground, holding his right knee. Zelarayán attempted to return to the match after staying down for some time and receiving treatment, but needed assistance getting off the field from the Crew’s medical staff. Immediately following the match, Zelarayán’s status was unknown by head coach Caleb Porter, who hadn’t yet spoken with the training staff about the midfielder’s injury.

Monday morning, the Armenian National Team tweeted that Zelarayán was out for the team’s upcoming international friendlies. Massive Report reached out to the Crew to confirm but received no response as of this publishing.

In the 89th minute, Zelarayán shielded the ball after receiving a pass near midfield, colliding with defender Aaron Long from behind. The injury caused him to go to the ground as Zelarayán held the back of his right knee. Porter labeled it as a knee tweak initially, adding that he didn’t think it was too serious with the caveat again that he hadn’t spoken with the training staff.

At this stage, it’s unknown how long Zelarayán will be out for the Black & Gold. The Crew is off next weekend for the international break that Zelarayán will now miss. Columbus doesn’t play again until April 2 when the team welcomes Nashville SC to Field.

With this news, Zelarayán will miss Armenia’s two friendlies scheduled against Montenegro and Norway on March 24 and 29. The matches have no bearing on World Cup qualifying directly, but Armenia scheduled them to help the team build chemistry.

On March 3, Armenian international legend, and current AS Roma midfielder in Italy’s Serie A, Henrikh Mkhitaryan announced his international retirement. That hole in the middle of the field is prime for Zelarayán to potentially overtake. Now that’s on hold.

So far in 2022, Zelarayán has been arguably the best player in Major League Soccer. Leading up to Sunday’s match in Harrison, New Jersey, Zelarayán scored four goals and assisted on two in three matches. Zelarayán was the only player in the league named to the MLS Team of the Week each of the first three weeks of the season.

Zelarayán is on pace for a career season, after finishing 2021 with five goals and two assists in the last five matches of the Black & Gold’s playoff-missing season. After the entire league dealt with inconsistency brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, it looked like Zelarayán reached another level in the MLS, a level that put him in the conversation as a Most Valuable Player candidate.

If Zelarayán misses substantial time, Columbus has options at the role. Midfielder Darlington Nagbe stepped into the No. 10 position in 2022 when Zelarayán was out with an injury. Also, new signing James Igbekeme and second-year Crew midfielders Marlon Hairston and Alexandru Matan can slide into an attacking midfield role if needed.