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Predicted XI: LAFC

Who will Caleb Porter select to start for the Crew against one of the league’s best teams?

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

With the reintroduction of Lucas Zelarayan to the Columbus Crew starting 11 last Saturday at New York City FC, most prognosticators and supporters felt that head coach Caleb Porter would do one of two things when it came to his team selection and formation. They believed he would either return to a 4-2-3-1 formation and allow Zelarayan to reclaim his spot as an attacking midfielder or stick with the 4-3-3 that had been successful over the previous three matches and play Zelarayan as a False 9.

However, Porter surprised everyone who wasn’t in the know when he selected option number three: playing with a 4-3-3 and putting the Armenian international out on the left wing. This proved to be a failed experiment as the Crew failed to generate anything offensively and Zelarayan moved centrally in the second half.

Porter will need to put his players in the best position to win this Saturday when LAFC, one of the best teams in Major League Soccer, comes to Field. Despite losing the team’s last two matches, LAFC has been close to unbeatable this season. This stellar form starts on the offensive side of the ball, as Los Angeles has scored 25 goals this season, which is good for second in MLS and is nine more than the Crew.

The Black & Gold should have their best starting 11 available for selection as this week’s injury report is thin, with only midfielder Kevin Molino out (right knee) and fullback/midfielder Marlon Hairston listed as questionable (right thigh).

With all of the above in mind, here is who Massive Report believes will start for Columbus Saturday against LAFC:

In media availability on Friday, Zelarayan admitted that he is more comfortable playing as an attacking midfielder than he is out on the left wing. However, he stated that if playing on the wing is what the team needs him to do, then he is willing to do it. Despite this willingness, Porter will return to the team’s more traditional 4-2-3-1 for this match and allow the Crew playmaker to roam free in the center of the pitch where he is the most dangerous and can best regain his early-season form.

The other big change from last Saturday is at center back. Josh Williams was named alongside Jonathan Mensah against NYCFC, despite Milos Degenek being back at full strength and the match being played on natural grass. This proved to be ineffective, as the Pigeons’ offense was in full control against the Black & Gold backline. Degenek needs to return to the starting 11, as he was playing well before picking up an injury at Sporting Kansas City in late April and the Williams-Mensah pairing is proving not to be fruitful. A return for Degenek will allow the Australian to grow his partnership with Mensah as it should be clear that this is the pairing for the future.