The Columbus Crew does not play this weekend, taking a week off over the international window, but a group of four Black & Gold players will compete while on international duty. On Wednesday, the Crew announced center back Miloš Degenek, wingers Yaw Yeboah and Derrick Etienne Jr. and Crew 2 defender Mohamed Abdi received call-ups to their respective national teams.
Of the four call-ups, two players will be involved in World Cup Qualifying. Degenek joins Australia who’s in a close fight for the World Cup in the third round of Asia qualifying. The Socceroos sit in third place in their group with the top two teams receiving a spot in the tournament.
Fortunately for Australia, the Socceroos have already clinched at least third place, which puts the team in a one-match playoff for a spot, which allows teams on the fringe of an automatic spot play for a final position in the World Cup.
Australia has two matches remaining in qualifying, both against the top two teams in the table. If the Socceroos win both games, Degenek has a strong chance at a guaranteed spot in the World Cup. Currently, Australia’s +9 goal differential is the highest in the table.
Yeboah joins Ghana for arguably the most difficult qualifying structure with the Confederation of African Football’s playoffs. Ghana takes on Nigeria in a home-and-away tie on March 25 and 29. The winner of that series qualifies for the World Cup Final in Qatar. There’s no intercontinental playoff to fall back on either.
Ghana’s been through trials lately. The Black Stars didn’t make it out of the group stage of the 2021 African Cup of Nations tournament, played in 2022 due to COVID-19 induced rescheduling. Following the tournament, Ghana fired its head coach Milovan Rajevac and hasn’t named a permanent replacement, after the firing happened on Jan. 27, 2022.
Etienne brings his fantastic form from the start to the Crew season to Miami for a CONCACAF friendly. Haiti takes on Guatemala on Sunday, March 27 at DRV PNK Stadium. This is one day after Crew 2 plays its first match in the team’s history on the same field against Inter Miami CF II.
Abdi’s Somalian team is in the early stages of the 2023 African Cup of Nations qualifying. Somalia plays Eswatini in a home-and-away tie, with matches on March 23 and 27. Abdi made his debut for Somalia’s senior team on Sept. 5, 2019, his only senior cap. Abdi is a recent signing to the Black & Gold’s MLS NEXT Pro development league team Crew 2.
Columbus has a group of four players that are usually named to their international sides that are absent in upcoming action. Midfielder Lucas Zelarayán’s injury, which will keep him out 1-2 weeks, meant he had to withdraw from a pair of friendlies with the Armenian National Team. Captain and center back Jonathan Mensah (Ghana), winger Luis Diaz (Costa Rica) and forward Gyasi Zardes (United States) were all left off their respective international clubs with World Cup Qualifying matches in the upcoming window. None of the three teams are eliminated from qualification.