The Columbus Crew SC was stunned during training Thursday when it learned it would be without two talented midfielders, Darlington Nagbe and Pedro Santos, in the MLS Cup Final because they were not medically cleared to play.
"It's a big blow, it's a big loss. Those two players have been key for us," Crew SC Head Coach Caleb Porters told reporters on a Zoom call Friday "On a human level just take away the soccer I just feel for them. Obviously they are healthy. That's first and foremost." Porter added the team is ready to go because they have dealt with so many issues to advance as Eastern Conference Champs including Covid-19, injuries, etc.
Crew defender Harrison Afful told reporters, "We can't control everything. Now they are out but the other players stepping in will do a good job. We just hope things go well for us tomorrow." Porter added, "I can just look in their eyes and they were like we are going to do this for Pedro and Darlington and nothing is going to stop us."
BOTTOM LINE: The Columbus Crew host the Seattle Sounders in the MLS Cup final.
The Crew are 10-1-0 in home games. Columbus ranks eighth in the league with 43 goals led by Gyasi Zardes with 13.
The Sounders are 3-4-3 in road games. Seattle is third in the league with 52 goals led by Raul Ruidiaz with 12.
The teams play Saturday for the second time this season. The last meeting ended in a 1-1 draw.
TOP PERFORMERS: Zardes has four goals and one assist over the past 10 games for the Crew.
Jordan Morris has 10 goals and seven assists for Seattle. Ruidiaz has five goals over the past 10 games for the Sounders.
LAST 10 GAMES: Columbus: 6-3-1, averaging 1.6 goals, one assist, four shots on goal and 5.8 corner kicks per game while allowing 1.1 goals per game.
Seattle: 5-2-3, averaging 1.7 goals, one assist, 3.4 shots on goal and six corner kicks per game while allowing 1.2 goals per game.
Seattle Sounders FC (11-5-6, second in the Western Conference) vs. Columbus Crew SC (12-6-5, third in the Eastern Conference)
Kickoff at Mapfre Stadium in Columbus is 8:30 p.m. on FOX-28.