Gyasi Zardes MCL sprain puts Columbus, USMNT availability in doubt

Gyasi Zardes thumbs up

The Columbus Crew’s push for an Audi MLS Cup Playoff spot will likely come without star striker Gyasi Zardes.

Head coach Caleb Porter disclosed Friday that Zardes suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain during their 1-1 midweek draw at Nashville SC, an injury that’ll keep him out for 2-4 weeks while recovering.

Columbus, the defending MLS Cup champions, have four regular-season games remaining, starting with the resurgent New York Red Bulls this Saturday at Field (6 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+). They close on Nov. 7 (Decision Day) against Chicago Fire FC at home, all after entering MLS Week 31 three points outside of the Eastern Conference’s seven playoff places.

Should the Crew make up ground and reach the postseason, Round One runs from Nov. 20-23. 

Zardes’ absence could have US men’s national team ramifications, too, before they host Mexico on Nov. 12 and travel to Jamaica on Nov. 16 when Concacaf World Cup Qualifying continues. He previously missed the Octagonal’s September window while nursing a hamstring injury, then featured in all three matches during the October window. 

The 30-year-old Designated Player has nine goals in 21 games (18 starts) this year, putting him in danger of missing out on four consecutive seasons of double-digit goals. In 2021, he’s been named MLS Player of the Week two times (Weeks 27 & 30). 

Without Zardes at striker, the Crew are likely to turn to Miguel Berry, who’s largely been a super-sub in 2021. This year’s Campeones Cup winners also have Bradley Wright-Phillips, with the 36-year-old sixth on the MLS all-time goalscoring chart.