Sunday’s 1-1 draw between the Columbus Crew and New York Red Bulls was full of positives and negatives. Earning a late point against a tough defensive team is great, but it was the expense of another set piece goal allowed and an injury to midfielder Lucas Zelarayán. While time will tell if the set pieces get sorted out, there is an update on Columbus’ No. 10. Zelarayán’s injury is considered not serious, with the midfielder expected to miss 1-2 weeks and could be back for the Nashville SC game on Aril 2 at Lower.com Field.
That’s good news for the Crew after it initially looked like a more serious injury requiring assistance off the field. Also, the international means one less match that Zelarayán will miss.
Zelarayán sustained the injury in the 89th minute when New York defender Aaron Long collided with the Argentinian midfielder. At first, Zelarayán attempted to rejoin the match since the Black & Gold were out of substitutes. His return didn’t last long, with two members of the medical staff assisting Zelarayán off the field.
After the match, head coach Caleb Porter described the injury as not as serious and likely a tweaked knee. Zelarayán was seen holding the back of his right knee after the incident. Although Porter’s words gave hope to the injury, it came with the disclaimer that he hadn’t yet spoken with the medical staff for confirmation.
The injury forced Zelarayán to stay stateside, instead of heading to Armenia for a set of international friendlies with his national team against Montenegro and Norway. Those matches on March 24 and 29 will be without the midfielder, who joined Armenia’s National Team last September. Zelarayán has one assist in two starts and four appearances for Armenia during the team’s World Cup Qualifying campaign.
So far in the 2022 season, Zelarayán’s play has him in the early conversations for the Major League Soccer Most Valuable Player award. Through four matches, Zelarayán has four goals and two assists. In the first game of the season, Zelarayán assisted on Columbus’ first goal of the year, a deflected shot by forward Miguel Berry, before adding a goal of his own in the 87th minute.
Against the San Jose Earthquakes, Zelarayán had a brace that included his seventh set piece goal since joining the Crew in 2020. In the Black & Gold’s second home match of the season against Toronto FC, Zelarayán scored the second goal of the match, charging the penalty area and sending in a low shot past goalkeeper Alex Bono.
If Zelarayan has to miss games, the Crew will rely on its current midfield players to carry the load. Artur and Darlington Nagbe have started every match this season, with substitutes Aidan Morris and James Igbekeme receiving minutes off the bench.
In past seasons, Nagbe has moved into a No. 10, attacking midfielder role when called upon and now-fullback Pedro Santos played a majority of 2019 in the position due to a season-ending injury for former Crew legend Frederico Higuain.
Also, midfielder Marlon Hairston hasn’t seen minutes so far in 2022, dealing with a hip injury, but hasn’t been included in any injury report. In 2021, Hairston was a key player as the Crew dealt with an injury-riddled season.