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Predicted XI: CF Montreal

Who will Caleb Porter select in his starting 11 for Friday night’s match in Montreal?

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Kyle Robertson/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Columbus Crew travels to Quebec to take on CF Montreal in the clubs’ second meeting of the season. The first matchup of 2022, which took place at Field in the beginning of August, ended in heartbreak for the Crew. The Black & Gold took a one-goal lead into the 88th minute, only for Montreal to score two goals to close out the match and take three points.

Columbus will hope that revenge comes in the form of at least one point. However, earning a point Friday night will be no small feat, as Montreal has been on fire as of late. Since the Aug. 3 match against the Crew, Montreal has taken 13 points from six matches, going 4-11 in the process.

The good news for the Black & Gold is that head coach Caleb Porter should have close to his full first choice 11 available for selection Friday night. The lone omission will be left back Pedro Santos, who will miss his fourth consecutive match with a right thigh injury.

With all of the above being said, here is who Massive Report believes will start for Columbus Friday night in Montreal:

At the beginning of the season, the thought of Santos having to miss an extended period of time was enough to keep Crew supporters up at night, as the depth at the left back position was a major question mark early on in the campaign. However, over the three matches that the Portuguese veteran has been out injured, 22-year-old Will Sands has stepped in and played well on the left side of the defense.

Prior to Santos going out with his injury, Sands spent most of his season in player purgatory, playing sporadically for both the first team and Columbus Crew 2. But over the last three matches, the young American fullback has been able to stretch his legs a bit and get comfortable. Sands has shown the ability to get forward and contribute offensively and has proven to be a solid defender down the left side. Expect Sands to slot in at left back again and play well Friday night in Montreal.

The biggest question mark entering Friday night, as far as player selection is concerned, is who will start alongside Darlington Nagbe in the midfield. Aidan Morris was selected over Artur in the starting 11 in the last match against the Chicago Fire, with Artur coming on in relief in the 80th minute. Morris played perfectly fine, not poor, and not great.

While many Black & Gold supporters will probably not like to hear this, it is time to give Artur an extended run of a few games in the midfield. Morris’ energy on the pitch is infectious, but he has proven that he has a propensity to turn the ball over. Artur, on the other hand, has shown that he is a bit more reliable with the ball at his feet, and with Columbus struggling to produce on offense, the correct choice is a midfielder who is more dangerous in the attack.

Morris is still incredibly valuable as a super sub, as he covers the ground and plays with unmatched intensity. Expect Porter to bring on the young midfielder late in the match if he feels Columbus needs a spark in the middle of the pitch.