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Predicted XI: Sporting Kansas City

Columbus rotated heavily midweek in order to be fresh for this road trip.

Seattle Sounders FC v Columbus Crew SC: - MLS Cup Final Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

The Columbus Crew went with a heavily rotated lineup in the midweek U.S. Open Cup match against Detroit City FC. With a focus on the Major League Soccer regular season, the Crew only brought Derrick Etienne Jr., Gyasi Zardes, Miguel Berry, and Yaw Yeboah as the only players who have started a match this season to Keyworth Stadium. Etienne, Berry and Yeboah all came off the bench as second half substitutions. This did not work, however, as the Black & Gold fell 2-1.

In MLS play, Columbus has failed to score a goal this month and head coach Caleb Porter made the decision to rest many of his regular starters on Tuesday in an attempt to keep them focused on the weekend match against Sporting Kansas City. Sporting has not been great this season, allowing 14 goals for an average of almost two a game. Kansas City has also only scored five goals, plus one own goal, so far this year, meaning the Crew should have a good opportunity to find the back of the net and steal some road points in this match.

In his media availability, Porter said that Lucas Zelarayan would most likely be out for this game with a lingering right knee injury. It is the same knee injury from the game against the New York Red Bulls a month ago and Zelarayan experienced a flare-up with soreness after the Orlando City SC match last weekend.

With that in mind, here is Massive Report’s predicted lineup for Columbus in this matchup:

Midfielder Darlington Nagbe slides up to the No. 10 role in place of Zelarayan while Aidan Morris fills Nagbe’s normal role deeper. In this spot, Nagbe will be able to connect the offense with a high level of vision and passing ability. Porter praised Morris for his individual performance on Tuesday night and should feel comfortable slotting him alongside Artur in the midfield. Many fans have been eager to see more matches from Morris after coming back from his ACL injury suffered early last year, as they remember his breakout performance against the Seattle Sounders in the 2020 MLS Cup Final. Morris only has two regular season starts in his career with the Crew, both in 2020 against New York City FC and CF Montreal.

Columbus traded forward Gyasi Zardes to the Colorado Rapids on Friday. For better or worse, Black & Gold fans will no longer be debating who should start at forward for the club as Berry is now the certain starting striker until an addition is made. With the trade of Zardes to Colorado, there seem to be no major rosters battles. As the summer transfer window opens, that may change with an open Designated Player slot and if the Crew continues to struggle scoring goals. The trade should signal a vote of confidence for Berry, which hopefully allows him to play with more confidence and score more frequently.

Given the consistency of the other players on the field, Porter won’t have many other decisions to make in his lineup for this game.