Predicted XI: Orlando City SC

The Columbus Crew returns home to host Orlando City SC after advancing to the next round of the U.S. Open Cup with a 5-1 win at Loudoun United FC on Wednesday night. Head coach Wilfried Nancy played a heavily rotated lineup in the cup, resting most of the regular starters to prepare for Orlando. 

Columbus continues to struggle on the injury front. Center back Philip Quinton took a late knock against Loudoun but is available for the match against the Lions. Fellow center back Milos Degenek is officially out with an ankle injury, while winger Luis Diaz, midfielder Kevin Molino, goalkeeper Eloy Room, left back Will Sands and center Josh Williams continue to deal with injury issues. Center back Steven Moreira is listed as questionable for Saturday’s match with a thigh injury.  

Nancy may have to get creative with his lineup at the back given the injuries. With all that in mind, let’s take a look at who we believe the Black & Gold will start against Orlando.

Goalkeeper Patrick Schulte continues to start in Room’s absence. Schulte plays more as a sweeper keeper, which provides an extra field player to pass to in defense. While this can lead to nervy moments, the young goalkeeper is confident and has the coach’s confidence as well. Schulte has played well enough to spark debate as to whether he might keep Room on the bench even if healthy. 

Both Degenek and Moreira took knocks in their last match against Inter Miami, and with Quinton going down in the dying moments of the Loudoun match, center back selection looks to be difficult. Nancy indicated that Quinton’s injury was not as bad as it looked and that Moreira was progressing well. With depth becoming a greater issue, it looks like both players will be needed to play in this match. Gustavo Vallecilla will start in his typical left center back role after playing on the right in the Open Cup. Expect to see new signing Malte Amundsen substitute in as a left center back for either Moreira or Vallecilla as Columbus will need rotation to field a strong lineup against LA Galaxy on Wednesday. 

Mohamed Farsi had a halftime exit from the Loudoun match and should be fresh enough to start against Orlando City. Yaw Yeboah excelled in the Open Cup match and also was able to get an early substitution at the half. Yeboah will look to continue his fine form with another start at left wing back.

Neither center midfielders Aidan Morris nor Darlington Nagbe saw action against Loudoun, with Nagbe not even traveling with the team. Both players will be rested after an off week and ready for action against Orlando.

Like Nagbe, none of the attacking trio of forward Cucho Hernandez and attacking midfielders Alexandru Matan and Lucas Zelarayan made the midweek trip to Virginia, a clear sign that their vision was ahead to OCSC. Hernandez finally got his first goal of the season against Miami. Columbus will need to find ways to break the deadlock first, or break down a low block, as the team has struggled to find results the past couple of matches in MLS play. 

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