Columbus Crew SC hope to become the second Major League Soccer team to book safe passage into the Concacaf Champions League semifinals Wednesday (8 pm ET | FS2, TUDN), but injuries and suspension complicate their second leg encounter against Monterrey at Estadio BBVA Bancomer.
The biggest questions are in the attacking third, which is especially troublesome given the need for the Crew to score away goals after the 2-2 draw in Columbus in the first leg.
Zelarayan will be sorely missed after a goal and an assist in the opening leg. Filling that hole will likely be Pedro Santos, who played as the No. 10 last year when Zelarayan was injured.
“If I play in the middle, I know how Caleb [Porter] wants the No. 10 [to] [play and I know my team and my teammates know me,” Santos said in a media conference call. “For me especially, I’m always ready to help the team and try to do my best to help the team and help Caleb also.”
Those words are surely music to Porter’s ears with the Crew coach ruling out offseason signing Alex Matan, the Romanian attacking midfielder who has only been training with the club since April 17, for a spot in his starting XI.
“I don’t want to throw him in the deep end at the wrong time,” Porter said. “He’s a young player and he’s a quality player. It’s important in his debut that he’s ready mentally and tactically.”
While he didn’t specially address Zardes’ status, Porter said a few players were game-time decisions. Jonathan Mensah, who has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury, will likely be one of them.
“I think when you strip it all away, the decisions are going to be pretty simple,” Porter said. “We’re going to go with the strongest group we have available and healthy.”