Just over two months after the Columbus Crew and Charlotte FC began a game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte on July 30, the two teams will finally finish the game Wednesday.
The initial meeting was heavily delayed by weather, both before the match began and after play had begun. When the thunder and lightning picked up again in the 16th minute, the game was suspended, with the remaining 74 minutes to be played another day. That day has arrived, and the game carries significance for both sides as they make a final push for the playoffs.
Because this game is the resumption of a suspended match, not a postponement that was rescheduled, the roster rules are complex. Here's a breakdown of the most common questions about how it will work when the Crew and Charlotte take the field at 7 p.m.
What were the original lineups for Columbus Crew and Charlotte FC?
The rosters are frozen for each team, which means both the starting XI and the bench cannot be changed, with several exceptions.
The Crew's starting lineup was goalkeeper Eloy Room, left back Pedro Santos, center backs Jonathan Mensah and Josh Williams, right back Steven Moreira, central midfielders Darlington Nagbe and Aidan Morris, wingers Derrick Etienne Jr. and Luis Diaz, attacking midfielder Lucas Zelarayán and striker Cucho Hernández. Evan Bush, Miloš Degenek, Kevin Molino, Yaw Yeboah, Marlon Hairston, Erik Hurtado, Jalil Anibaba, James Igbekeme and Will Sands were available on the bench as substitutes.
In Charlotte's lineup, goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina, left back Joseph Mora, center backs Guzmán Corujo and Anton Walkes, right back Harrison Afful, central midfielder Brandt Bronico, wingers Yordy Reyna and McKinze Gaines, attacking midfielders Ben Bender and Quinn McNeill and striker Karol Świderski were the starters. On the bench, Charlotte had George Marks, Jan Sobociński, Kamil Jóźwiak, Jordy Alcivar, Daniel Rios, Christian Makoun, Shinyashiki, Derrick Jones and Jaylin Lindsey.
Will Columbus or Charlotte make changes to their lineup?
The Crew will have one change, as Mensah continues to work his way back from a Grade I hamstring strain suffered on Sept. 13. He isn't ready to resume his starting role and will be replaced by Degenek. Replacing injured players is allowed, and does not count against a team's five allowed substitutes, but the new player must come from the original pool of substitutes and cannot be subsequently replaced themselves. That means Degenek can be added to the starting group, but his spot on the bench cannot be filled — the Crew will have to play with one fewer substitute available.
Things are more complicated for Charlotte.
Kahlina was injured during pregame warmups on Saturday and is questionable for Wednesday's game. Pablo Sisniega took his place in goal Saturday, but Sisniega was not on the bench for the July game and thus cannot be inserted as a direct replacement for Kahlina. Backup goalkeeper Marks can make the start, and Sisniega is allowed to then be added to the bench because teams must have two goalkeepers available.
Additionally, Corujo started the game for Charlotte but suffered a torn ACL in August and is out for the remainder of the season. He can be replaced from Charlotte's bench following the same restrictions as the Crew replacing Mensah. Makoun, who was on the bench for the beginning of the game, was traded to New England in August. His vacant spot cannot be filled.
It's a benefit to the Crew that the lineup they used in July is essentially their preferred starting XI. Charlotte rotated several regular starters out of their starting spots for the initial game, leaving them with more decisions to make when the game resumes. Theoretically, Charlotte could replace change their starting lineup, though the changes would count against their five substitutes for the game.
"There’s a lot of things to consider," Crew coach Caleb Porter said. "The good news is we started a very strong lineup. We didn’t rotate that game. That was key. They rotated a few guys that game, so I think they’ll have a few more things to consider. But it is unique."
How will the game be restarted?
The game was stopped at the 15:57 mark and will resume at the same point. The game was stopped while the Charlotte goalkeeper was in possession of the ball, so the game will resume via a dropped ball to Charlotte's goalkeeper. Halftime will still be taken at 45 minutes, making the first half just 29 minutes.
What are the playoff implications for Columbus Crew and Charlotte FC?
The two teams currently sit eighth and ninth in the Eastern Conference, just behind the playoff line. The top seven teams in each conference make the playoffs. A win isn't necessary for the Crew to remain alive, but it would make Sunday's game in Orlando a must-win and open the door to the possibility that the Crew would need additional results to go their way to make the playoffs.
Porter doesn't want to let it get to that point.
"(Wednesday) is a must-win game," Porter said. "That’s the way we’re approaching it. Whether or not it’s a must-win, we’ll see, but we’re approaching these next two games as must-wins. We know if we win these next two games, then we’re in. It’s very simple."
If the Crew win, Charlotte is eliminated from playoff contention. After beating Philadelphia, the No. 1 team in the East, 4-0 Saturday, Charlotte enters the game riding a wave of confidence — but so do the Crew after a 2-1 comeback win against the New York Red Bulls.
"This is going to be a really, really tough game," Porter said. "It’s going to be a battle. They have a very good attack and we feel like we have a very good defensive group. I like our chances in the attack. From a matchup standpoint there, we should be able to create chances. It’s going to be an interesting game."
Record: 10-7-15, 45 pts., 8th in East
Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1):
Eloy Room (goalkeeper), Pedro Santos (left back), Miloš Degenek (center back), Josh Williams (center back), Steven Moreira (right back),Darlington Nagbe (central midfielder), Aidan Morris (central midfielder), Derrick Etienne Jr. (left winger), Lucas Zelarayán (attacking midfielder), Luis Diaz (right winger), Cucho Hernández (forward).
Injured: Jonathan Mensah (out, left thigh)
What to watch: Etienne and Zelarayán were substitutes in Saturday's game and Hernández missed the game with a suspension. Porter expects all three to be fresh Wednesday, which should bring a boost to the Crew's attack — particularly after Etienne scored the second brace of his career in the win. Degenek takes Mensah's spot in the starting lineup to pair with Williams at the back of the defense, which will be important against a Charlotte side that's scored seven goals in its last two games.
Record: 13-17-2, 41 pts., 9th in East
Projected Starting XI (4-1-4-1):
George Marks (goalkeeper), Joseph Mora (left back), Anton Walkes (center back), Jan Sobocinski (center back), Harrison Afful (right back), Brandt Bronico (central midfielder), Yordy Reyna (left winger), Ben Bender (attacking midfielder), Quinn McNeill (attacking midfielder), McKinze Gaines (right winger), Karol Swiderski (forward).
Injured: Kristijan Kahlina (questionable, hand), Guzmán Corujo (out, knee)
Suspended: Christian Fuchs (red card)
Columbus Crew prediction
Columbus 3, Charlotte 2: Charlotte has the fewest draws in MLS this season with two, so they've made a habit of playing at the far extremes of the possible results. Though the two teams played to a 1-1 tie in June, the playoff stakes of this matchup will bring out the power of both attacks. A fresh Hernández makes the difference.
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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Columbus Crew roster vs. Charlotte FC suspended game