Undermanned D.C. United will play at underwhelming MLS Cup champion Columbus on Saturday afternoon.
The Crew (0-0-2, 2 points) are trying to avoid becoming the second team in MLS history to start the season with three scoreless draws, according to the league's website. The Colorado Rapids did it in 2015.
D.C. United (1-2-0, 3 points) has struggled to field a competitive team because of injuries, having 13 of its 30 players unavailable for the 4-1 loss at San Jose on May 1.
There's a good chance D.C. United will have fewer than the maximum nine available substitutes against Columbus.
"It's not easy right now with the injuries," D.C. defender Brendan Hines-Ike said. "It makes the roster smaller and smaller each week, but we do have a lot of guys coming back, hopefully soon, which will be a big boost."
Among those still out are goalkeeper Bill Hamid (groin injury) and U.S. national team forward Paul Arriola (quadriceps), but former Crew forward Ola Kamara (groin) could make his season debut.
The Crew have their own problems.
In addition to the 0-0 matches against Philadelphia and CF Montreal, the Crew exited the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals on Wednesday after a 3-0 loss to CF Monterrey in Mexico in the second leg to lose 5-2 on aggregate.
"I still believe in my team. I'm looking forward now to a long season," Crew coach Caleb Porter said. "We have 32 (MLS) games to play, believe it or not.
"Now we can throw everything into this next game. We have a good team. Nothing is going to change from that. We'll get a little bit healthy. We need to get this win on Saturday, breathe a little bit, and then get back to work and execute better."
The Crew continue to be without several injured players. Perry Kitchen (thigh), Marlon Hairston (knee), Aidan Morris (ACL) and Kevin Molino (hamstring) are unavailable for Saturday's game.
The good news is that midfielder Lucas Zelarayan, the 2020 MLS Cup MVP, is fresh because he did not play Wednesday (yellow card accumulation) for Columbus, which will try to end a three-match losing streak to D.C. United.
--Field Level Media