By Tyler Trent
Cucho Hernández celebrates (Photo courtesy of the Columbus Crew)
What We Have Seen So Far
The Columbus Crew is coming off a 3-2 win over the Colorado Rapids which saw designated players Lucas Zelarayán and Cucho Hernández on the scoresheet. However, that victory came after three straight defeats to FC Cincinnati, Pittsburgh Riverhounds, and Nashville SC. While those are strong teams, the Crew has been allowing many goals this season, largely due to the number of injuries at center back.
Head coach Wilfried Nancy has his squad sitting one spot above Charlotte FC in the Eastern Conference Standings. Despite the Crew allowing more goals than expected, they have also been scoring often, with the second-most goals scored in the Eastern Conference this season.
Out: Milos Degenek, Luis Diaz, Will Sands, Gustavo Vallecilla, Josh Williams Questionable: Kevin Molino, Eloy Room, Alex Matan
From MLSsoccer.com's Player Availability Report dated 5/30/23. None of the players listed above were available for the Crew's match against Colorado.
Players to Watch
Cucho Hernández – Cucho has had a goal contribution in five of his last six appearances for the Crew. However, in the first meeting against Charlotte, Cucho was unavailable due to injury, so the team must be prepared to deal with one of the best strikers in the league.
Malte Amundsen – As discussed on MLS Corner Tuesday night, Amundsen is required to play center back due to an injury to Gustavo Vallecilla. Amundsen has typically been playing as a left wing-back this season after a season-ending injury to Will Sands in the two teams' previous meetup in Charlotte. Charlotte FC should look to attack Amundsen's side of the pitch as he adjusts to playing further back for the Crew instead of parading up the left flank.
Lucas Zelarayán – Zelarayán has arguably been one of the best players in MLS this season, with seven goals and five assists already on the year. In the first matchup of the year, Charlotte FC was generally able to negate his influence to only a few small chances created, so limiting his opportunities will be the biggest key to coming home with points.
The Crew's Starting XI
The Crew lineup has required some rotation due to injuries, as previously mentioned, but still boasts a strong lineup of attacking players and a powerful midfield combo of Aidan Morris and Darlington Nagbe. Yaw Yeboah has been playing well for the Crew but had issues with cramps in his last two matches. He was substituted in the 61' minute last night but is expected to be available for the Crew.
With this lineup, the Crew is playing with two players who primarily play outside back at center back, along with Phillip Quinton, who has looked shaky throughout the season.
The Crew's lineup versus Colorado (Image from MLSsoccer.com)
The Crew's passing network versus Colorado Rapids (Graphic found on MLSsoccer.com)
The Crew wingbacks will press up the field very high, as shown by #14 Yaw Yeboah in the passing network above. In addition, the Crew will link up heavily throughout the midfield.
Columbus Crew's zones of control* this season (Graphic found on theanalyst.com)
The Columbus Crew loves to control the ball across the entire pitch, as shown above, with over 55% of possession in almost every division of the pitch.
Outlook for 2023
The Crew is a dangerous team, but with so many injuries in their defense, Charlotte FC should have opportunities to attack. The Crew will likely have a high pass volume and try to keep the pressure on the Charlotte FC backline.
*For the zones of control, blue symbolizes areas on the field where the Columbus Crew has had at least 55% of total touches. Red represents areas where their opponents have had at least 55% of total touches.