Columbus Crew stretched ‘very thin’ ahead of rivalry match at FC Cincinnati

Columbus Crew

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — 11 Crew players won’t be available for Columbus’ rivalry game at FC Cincinnati on Friday night with five players out due to injury and another six gone for international play.

Columbus is coming off it’s second-straight tie after coming back to draw against New England in the Crew’s first game at Lower.com Field. Crew coach Caleb Porter called it Columbus’ bets game of the year and even went as far to say it was one of the best games they’ve played during his three years with the club.

But Porter added losing so many players will throw off the balance and momentum Columbus has been building through its 11 games.

“We still have very good players who are available, but we’re definitely thin at the 9 [forward] position, the winger position and the midfield position,” Porter said. “When you have your best game of the year, you’d like to keep as much continuity in what you were doing as possible but we’re not able to do that.”

Columbus will be without forwards Gyasi Zardes and Bradley Wright-Phillips (thigh injury) as well as wingers Kevin Molino, Luis Diaz and Derrick Etienne Jr. who are all gone for international play.

In order to bolster the forward position, the Crew traded for nine-year MLS veteran Erik Hurtado.

Porter has not said whether he’ll start Hurtado who came from Club de Foot Montreal or 23-year-old Miguel Berry who has played one minute in his short MLS career.

This will be the Crew’s seventh “Hell is Real” match against FC Cincinnati and first at TQL Stadium, which opened earlier this season. Despite the new stadium, FC Cincinnati has yet to win a game at home this season.

“This is definitely one of those games that’s bigger than the others we know that mainly because of our supporters and how bad they want to beat the city down the street,” Porter said. “I had circled Austin [FC] twice. I think I had this one circled three times.”

Injured Crew player

  • Bradley Wright-Phillips (thigh)
  • Aidan Morris (torn ACL)
  • Artur (hip)
  • Milton Valenzuela (hamstring)
  • Josh Williams (ankle)

Crew players on international leave

  • Gyasi Zardes (USA)
  • Luis Diaz (Columbia)
  • Kevin Molino (Trinidad and Tobago)
  • Derrick Etienne Jr. (Haiti)
  • Liam Fraser (Canada)
  • Eloy Room (Curacao)

Columbus is ninth in the Eastern Conference following one loss and two ties in their last three games. Prior to that, Columbus had won three games in a row. A win for the Crew would put them back in sixth place.

Meanwhile, FC Cincinnati has won two of its last three games and sits third to last in the Eastern Conference but has played two fewer games than most of the other teams.

Ohio native goaltender Evan Bush will get the start in place of Room. Bush recorded a clean sheet in Columbus’ 2-0 win over Chicago in the final game at Historic Crew Stadium.

“We’re gonna have to be ready for everything,” Bush said. “You can lose five in row, come to a rivalry game and shift the balance of your season, so you’re certainly aware of the form and they’re playing with more confidence than they were three weeks ago.”

Bush will need a solid performance from defensive leader Jonathan Mensah while the offensive attack will run through midfielder Lucas Zelarayan who has scored three of the Crew’s 11 goals this season.

Columbus and FC Cincinnati will kick-off at 7:30 p.m.

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