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Crew midfielder Kevin Molino available vs. Charlotte FC after ACL tear

The 2021 offseason signing scored one goal in 11 appearances before tearing his ACL for the third time.

MLS: D.C. United at Columbus Crew SC Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday, the Columbus Crew released a lengthy injury report with nine players listed as questionable, but no one listed as out. While most of the names on the list were known in advance, a lone positive in the report was winger Kevin Molino’s status upgraded to questionable after being out since tearing his ACL in August of last season. Head coach Caleb Porter confirmed that Molino will return to the field this weekend against Charlotte FC.

“He will be available. We settled on that today, which is really exciting and great for him,” said Porter. “He looks better now than he did when he came to the team last year. He looks stronger. He looks more fit. He’s gonna play a role in this game.”

Porter also warned to have patience with Molino. The midfielder has trained with the team for two weeks, but missing nearly a year of action means that there will be rust that only comes off when there’s an opposing team playing on the field.

Also, Porter said that four to six of the names on the injury list are likely out, with two to four likely available, including Molino. This aligns with what Porter shared prior to the international break for midfielders Lucas Zelarayán, Artur, Yaw Yeboah and fullback Pedro Santos.

Molino joined the Crew before the 2021 offseason, coming off an impressive 2020 MLS Cup playoff run with Minnesota United where he scored four goals in three matches. During the 2020 regular season, Molino scored nine goals and assisted on four. When the Black & Gold added the Trinity & Tobago international, it was in hopes to shore up the left winger position that saw a rotating door of names since late 2019.

Unfortunately for Molino and the Crew, the midfielder started the 2021 season on the injury list with a hamstring issue. The preseason knock was concerning considering Molino tore his ACL twice before jumping onto the Columbus roster, once in ACL in 2015 with Orlando City and again in 2018 with Minnesota.

On June 19, 2021, Molino made his long-awaited debut with the Black & Gold but joined a team struggling with injuries of its own. With an inconsistent roster and a rotating midfield around Molino, the Trinidad and Tobago native never truly adjusted to Porter’s style of play and scored one goal in 11 appearances, seven of those starts.

Molino returning creates an interesting competition across the attacking midfield roles. Derrick Etienne Jr, who started the season as the starting left winger, is having a career year, scoring three goals and assisting on five others in 11 appearances, eclipsing his former career-best of six goals in 2021 with the Crew and 2018 with the New York Red Bulls. In the same position is Luis Díaz, who started the year with a renewed hunger to keep his spot on the team after two difficult seasons. Díaz suffered a back injury that’s kept him out of form and hasn’t started since April 2 against Nashville SC.

If Molino can return to 2020 production levels, it will help a Columbus team that started the season strong offensively but’s only scored eight goals in its last 10 matches.