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Predicted XI: New England Revolution

With fullback Steven Moreira out and the Crew at close to 100% health, the decisions on the field become more difficult

MLS: FC Cincinnati at Columbus Crew SC Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Columbus Crew is 14 matches away from the end of the MLS regular season and eight of those games are at home. Saturday is the first time all season that the Black & Gold are playing at Lower.com Field two weeks in a row and there’s a lot of good happening for Columbus right now.

After weeks where the Crew had up to nine players on the injury report, the Black & Gold have only midfielder Artur listed as questionable. Competitively Columbus hasn’t lost a match in eight straight and is back in a playoff-clinching top-seven spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Crew is rebuilding its attack. Thanks to a return to form by midfielder Lucas Zelarayán and the introduction of forward Cucho Hernández, who seems magnetically connected to scoring goals, the Black & Gold have multiple goals in three straight matches, the first time they’ve accomplished this feat since the first three matches of the season.

With all the good, it doesn’t mean it’s easy to decide who will play Saturday night when Columbus welcomes the New England Revolution to Lower.com Field. Here is how Massive Report believes the Crew will line up.

There are three areas on the field where there’s debate around who gets a starting nod. The first, and most obvious, is at right back. Due to yellow card accumulation, Steven Moreira is suspended for Saturday’s match. The obvious pick to replace him is Marlon Hairston, but he hasn’t played much this season due to injuries. Alternatively, the Black & Gold could opt to go with former Crew 2 defender Mo Farsi, who signed with the first team on Friday.

Another question on the backline is at center back. Miloš Degenek entered late in Sunday’s 2-0 Hell is Real Derby victory against FC Cincinnati after being on the injury report for a few matches. When both are healthy, it’s been a mixed back from Porter between Degenek and veteran Josh Williams. Either one of them starting next to captain Jonathan Mensah wouldn’t come as a shock.

An area that doesn’t necessarily have any questions, but will soon, is the midfield role other than 2022 MLS All-Star Darlington Nagbe. Morris has held onto the starting role for seven straight matches, in the absence of Brazilian midfielder Artur, and Porter said Morris’ match against FC Cincinnati was his strongest since signing with the Crew in 2020 as a Homegrown player.

The final area to look through is the wingers. For three seasons, wingers have been interchangeable by Porter but since Hernández joined the Crew three matches ago, Derrick Etienne Jr. and Luis Díaz have played great soccer. Even though winger Yaw Yeboah is back from injury and was playing strong prior to, Porter doesn’t get the same field-stretching speed from Yeboah as he gets from Díaz. Until Etienne and Díaz show that they shouldn’t start, they seem to be the top pick for Porter to help create chances.