The Columbus Crew returns home after a brief two-match road trip to face fellow Major League Soccer original, D.C. United. The Black & Gold will hope that this match can act as a catalyst to both propel the Crew to winning ways and to turn Lower.com Field into the fortress the players, front office and supporters all envisioned it would be.
In MLS the good teams win at home and get results on the road. So far this season, Columbus managed to get results on the road but the home form has left a lot to be desired. D.C. presents as good an opportunity as any for the Black & Gold to get back to winning ways as they come into Saturday’s match even with the Crew on points.
For the second week in a row, playmaker Lucas Zelarayan is listed on the injury report as questionable, still nursing a right knee injury sustained March 20 against the New York Red Bulls. While Zelarayan will not start the match, Caleb Porter stated in his media availability on Friday that it is possible we see the Armenian international come off the bench.
Joining Zelarayan on the injury list are Kevin Molino (right knee - out), Luis Diaz (back - questionable), and Miloš Degenek (left thigh - questionable). Degenek came off in the 87th minute at Sporting Kansas City, and although he is listed as questionable, Porter stated it is unlikely fans see Degenek in Saturday’s match.
With all that in mind, here is who I believe head coach Porter will select in his starting 11:
Last Saturday, likely due to the absence of Zelarayan, Porter opted for a change of formation. Instead of the usual 4-2-3-1, with the prolific playmaker manning the attacking midfield position, Porter went with a formation with three true midfielders, as Artur played more defensive and Darlington Nagbe and Aidan Morris played centrally. Due to Zelarayan’s likely absence from the starting 11, Porter will opt for this formation once again to start.
As stated above, the Black & Gold will more than likely be without Degenek at center back. However, Crew supporters will be happy to see fan-favorite Josh Williams step into the Australian international’s spot alongside Jonathan Mensah. Saturday night’s game will be Williams’ first league start of the season and he will look to redeem himself after he sloppily conceded a penalty against Detroit City FC that ultimately saw Columbus eliminated from the U.S. Open Cup last week.
One last position group to note is the wingers. On Friday, Porter sang the praises of the Real Zaragoza loanee James Igbekeme, calling him a “complete” player. Following his first league start of the season at Kansas City, Igbekeme will receive another opportunity to prove he is the player who should start at left wing every match. This position is wide open as Derrick Etienne Jr. has regressed after despite a red hot start to the campaign.
As for the right wing, while Yaw Yeboah has been anything but stellar this season, the Ghanaian international will continue to starts, as it is too early to dismiss a player the Crew spent $2 million on this past offseason.