Saturday, the Columbus Crew beat Atlanta United 2-1 and it was without dynamic midfielder Lucas Zelarayán. On the final injury report before the weekend match, head coach Caleb Porter and the Crew medical staff added Zelarayán to the list as questionable. Zelarayán ultimately didn’t travel to Atlanta and did travel for international duty for the start of Europe’s Nations League with the Armenian National Team and is now set to miss three to five weeks with a muscle injury.
The news was first published on Armenia’s official website, which states the nation was told by the team of Zelarayán’s injury. In the report, they stated Zelarayán would miss four to six weeks. On Wednesday, head coach Caleb Porter corrected the report.
“We’re hoping to have him off the bench after the international break, at the least, that’s the target,” said head coach Caleb Porter. “I would say it’s more three to five weeks.”
Zelarayán’s three-to-five week absence means that the midfielder could miss matches against Charlotte FC on June 18 and a trip to Real Salt Lake on June 25. If Zelarayán misses the entire five weeks, a June 29 match against Toronto FC is also in jeopardy. Porter did not sound like he believes Zelarayán will be out that long.
So far in 2022, Zelarayán’s played in all but two matches, starting nine. Each absence was due to injury after the Argentinian-born star started the season on a high note. In his first four matches, Zelarayán scored four goals and assisted on two. At the time, Zelarayán created more goals than 16 MLS teams.
All Zelarayán’s accolades in the first month of MLS play earned the midfielder his first MLS Player of the Month honor, which came 10 days after he suffered his first sidelining injury of the season.
On March 20, Zelarayán injured his knee at the end of a 1-1 Crew draw against the New York Red Bulls. Fortunately for Zelarayán and the Black & Gold, this knee issue came before a break in Columbus’ schedule. That knee injury also kept Zelarayán out of international duty.
Zelarayán returned after that break and played the next three matches. In those losses, the Crew score a single goal and was outscored 4-0. The playmaker didn’t look the same on the field and the Black & Gold didn’t look as dangerous as in earlier games in the season.
Since suffering the initial knee injury, Zelarayán hasn’t scored or assisted. Instead, Columbus opted to move to a 4-3-3 formation that’s void of a No. 10 role that Zelarayán fills so well when healthy.
In the four matches where Zelarayán either didn’t play or didn’t start, the Black & Gold haven’t lost. Columbus earned eight points out of those four matches with draws against Sporting Kansas City on April 23 and the New England Revolution on May 7. The Crew got victories came against D.C. United and Atlanta United.
Without a healthy Zelarayán, the Black & Gold have played well but when the playmaker certainly elevates the ceiling of the team and should not miss much time.