Predicted XI: D.C. United

The Columbus Crew travel to face D.C. United at Audi Field this week and it’ll be interesting to see how head coach Wilfried Nancy handles a team he has played before already this MLS season. Nancy also has given different wrinkles in every match so far, which makes it a challenge to guess how he will line up the team sheet for this match. 

Columbus comes into this game off the team’s most successful back-to-back games offensively, and the goals have come from seven separate scorers. The attack has been humming along and it would be difficult to see Nancy changing too much. 

The injury report had some familiar faces this week. Winger Luis Diaz, forward Cucho Hernandez, midfielder Kevin Molino and center back Josh Williams are all out. Diaz has been able to do individual workouts in training. Hernandez posted an Instagram story showing some of the individual workouts he has been doing and looks to be on track for a speedy return to the pitch, although not this week. Molino will be sidelined for at least another month after knee surgery.

Additionally, goalkeeper Eloy Room has been marked as questionable with a knee issue that kept him out last week.

With all of that in mind, let’s take a look at how Nancy will line up this Crew team in D.C.:

As mentioned, Room was held out for the last match due to knee pain. If that sounds familiar, it is because that is what has kept Hernandez out for multiple weeks. While Room’s injury might not be as bad as Hernandez’s, Nancy will hold the goalkeeper out a week longer as he continues to place trust in second-year pro Patrick Schulte. Schulte has shown his ability to be a ball-playing goalkeeper, and this works well for Columbus against United. 

D.C. has been a good aerial threat team so far this year, especially with forward Christian Bentke, and will look to play services into the team’s target men. Neither of the Black & Gold goalkeepers excels at clearing and claiming crosses, but Nancy will take advantage of the extra player in possession to keep United off the ball.

To combat Bentke, Milos Degenek starts in the middle of the center backs with Steven Moriera to his right and Gustavo Vallecilla to his left, as was the case last week. Degenek and Bentke played a hard-fought match when D.C. traveled to Columbus earlier this year. Vallecilla continues to get the nod over Philip Quinton, as Vallecilla has been a better option in possession. Quinton has looked most comfortable in the center of the back three, but Degenek is the clear favorite in that position.

It is unlikely Nancy starts anyone over Mohamed Farsi and Will Sands with confidence in both wing backs. Sands may need to learn when to play more withdrawn, versus bombing upfield every time Crew takes possession to avoid having other players need to have for him.

Darlington Nagbe and Aidan Morris have a stranglehold over the central midfield spots for Columbus, making it difficult for Isaiah Parente and Sean Zawadzki to see playing time. When asked if Parente and Zawadzki would feature for Crew 2, reserve team head coach Laurent Courtois affirmed that the Crew saw both midfielders as starting caliber midfielders in MLS but that due to the high level of play by Nagbe and Morris would see some play time with Crew 2 to get playing tie. 

The attacking three players for the Black & Gold against United include Alexandru Matan and Lucas Zelarayan, who have created many good attacking sequences for the Crew, often being catalysts for the recent cascade of goals. It would be hard to see Nancy dropping either player, but the single striker position is a bit less certain. Nancy goes with Christian Ramirez over the young Jacen Russell-Rowe. 

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