Predicted XI: Crew at FC Cincinnati

The Columbus Crew travel to TQL Stadium for the opening act of the Hell is Real Derby in 2023 against FC Cincinnati on Saturday evening. Columbus’ southern neighbors have a perfect record at home this year, winning all seven games played. The Black & Gold look to add a blemish to that record.

The Crew has started to see players that have been injured reintegrate into first team training like midfielder Kevin Molino, goalkeeper Eloy Room and center back Josh Williams. All three remain unavailable for this game, however. Center back Milos Degenek, winger Luis Diaz and left back Will Sands all also remain out. Center back Gustavo Vallecilla limped off the pitch on Wednesday against the LA Galaxy, but is not included in the injury report.

Let’s take a look at how we expect the Crew to line up against Cincinnati.

Patrick Schulte will get the starting nod in goal for this match with Room still out. Aside from the first match of the season against the Philadelphia Union, this will be the biggest test for Schulte this year. The second-year pro will need to keep calm and collected with the ball at his feet.

The backline is the biggest question mark going into this game. Degenek’s injury looms large, especially with the injury scare to Vallecilla. Quinton will continue to start in the middle of the backline in place of Degenek, while Steven Moreira starts as the right center back. Vallecilla will continue to start, even with the injury scare Wednesday night. The Blue and Orange have a potent attack with playmakker Luciano Acosta and forward Brandon Vazquez. The outbound Brenner has been injured for the last few matches.

Wing back Mohamed Farsi returns to the starting lineup after resting for the first half against the Galaxy. Columbus has a difficult decision to make at left wing back. Yaw Yeboah, who has played well lately, is dealing with a minor injury but is available. Jimmy Medranda is yet to start a match for the senior team, even when he seems the most logical choice. Because of that, Malte Amundsen will start over Medranda and Yeboah, but the Danish wing back could be called upon as a left center back if Vallecilla cannot play. 

Aidan Morris and Darlington Nagbe will man the midfield for the rivalry match. For the Black & Gold to return home with any points, Morris and Nagbe will need to be the rock the Crew builds on. If the Columbus midfielders can limit Acosta’s impact, it would make for a more comfortable defensive performance. 

Alexandru Matan will be the odd man out of the attacking trio, as he exited the Orlando match in the 90th minute while playing the entire match against the Galaxy. Forward sCucho Hernandez and Christian Ramirez and playmaker Lucas Zelarayan will be the front three. Ramirez’s physicality and smart positioning give both Hernandez and Zelarayan a target. Ramirez will need to start putting away some of his chances as Jacen Russell-Rowe pushes for more minutes. 

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