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Countdown to Kickoff: 3 Questions with Massive Report

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Nicolas Galindo/The Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Get ready for kickoff with answers to your burning questions about the Columbus Crew with Thomas Costello of our sister Site Massive Report.

Looking at Columbus’s roster, it looks better than their table position, just like the Fire. What do you think is causing them to underachieve?

The underachieving of the 2022 Columbus Crew is for a few reasons and in different parts of the season. At first, it was just small mistakes. Columbus played well in the run of attack and didn’t give up a goal in the run of play until their fifth match of the season. Even then, it was a slip that allowed Nashville to get a 1-0 win. Fortunately, for the first four matches, Columbus had enough offense to overcome and win.

Then it was an issue with goal scoring. Midfielder Lucas Zelarayán, who won player of the month for March, sustained a knee injury and kept playing but wasn’t effective. The Crew went four straight matches without a goal, and had to learn how to win without Zelarayán.The final piece, which I know every team deals with, is staying healthy. Zelaryán, midfielder Arturs Artur, Derrick Etienne Jr., Yaw Yeboah and defenders Pedro Santos, Jonathan Mensah, Miloš Degenek and Steven Moreira all missed time and all started the season. Through it, head coach Caleb Porter adjusted his style, gave up the need for possession, and has the team earning points, going five matches undefeated, but only two were wins.

Is the loss of Gyassi Zardes having that big an impact, or have they moved on quickly?

Gyasi Zardes’ trade in April probably came too late. Columbus seemed keen on moving Zardes, we’re now learning, back in the preseason. They leveraged young forward Miguel Berry to take his place but he didn’t show the same goal-scoring prowess that made him a bench playmaker who scored big goals. Columbus has struggled in goal scoring up top, even with Zardes, with only six goals from the striker position and three of those in the last four matches. The Crew brings in Cucho Hernández this weekend, from Watford FC in the Premier League, to shore up the role. Makes Crew supporters wonder if a preseason move of Zardes was in the works this offseason but never came to fruition.

How are Columbus going to win the game, and how are they going to lose it?

The Crew will win this game on the counter. Porter’s started most matches with a 4-2-3-1, but the recent run of points in five straight’s put Porter into a defensive mood. Porter’s run with a 3-5-2 against Toronto FC and Philadelphia Union, where he’s been fine giving up possession. With Chicago struggling, I wouldn’t be shocked if Porter tries to go back to his more open, possession-style, play but if he doesn’t they can still win. When it comes to how they can lose, it’s mental lapses that will get them. No team is perfect, and MLS is becoming a league where more and more mistakes are exploited. It seems like every one of them has come back to haunt the Black & Gold this season.