In terms of severity, the knee injury suffered by Columbus centerback Gaston Sauro last weekend in Toronto is pretty bad. The timing, though not great, isn’t quite as severe.
Last season the Argentine arrived in August to shore up a rickety back line and form a reliable partnership with captain Michael Parkhurst that helped guide Crew SC to its second MLS Cup final appearance. His recovery from a torn posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee is expected to take about four months. No surgery is planned.
He’s been sidelined three times since joining the Crew. Seven minutes into his debut Sept. 6, he suffered a concussion in a collision with teammate Wil Trapp. A hamstring injury forced him out of the lineup for a few games in April. Counting playoffs, he’s made just 16 appearances.
One-third of the way through the season, Columbus (2-4-5) is struggling to edge into the playoff tier and its first-off-the-bench option at centerback, Tyson Wahl, is dealing with post-concussion problems. Sauro hasn’t been impeccable but the back line is definitely weaker without him.
Rookie Rodrigo Savaria stepped in against TFC and Crew SC survived a few frantic moments to depart BMO Field with its third straight tie, 0-0, and in ninth place in the Eastern Conference. The team is also deprived of right back Harrison Afful (Ghana) and winger Cedrick Mabwati (DR Congo) by international callups. They will miss the next two MLS games to represent their countries in Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, and looking further down the tunnel, head coach Gregg Berhalter probably must wait until the transfer window re-opens in early July to make any significant changes.
A signing at that juncture of the season would leave plenty of time to restore momentum, and so tightly bunched is the Eastern Conference teams can jump well up the standings with just a few wins.
By jettisoning Kei Kamara to New England Crew SC accrued allocation monies to facilitate a major signing as well as draft picks that could be used in trades. But that deal and the Sauro injury leaves two big holes, not just the one up top.
“It’s not the best news,” Berhalter told the Columbus Dispatch. “I think he’ll be back, but we’ll plan on a good four or five months here. That’s life. Every team goes through something like this. It’s unfortunate, but it’s our sport."
CIMAN BOUND FOR EUROS. Speaking of big holes in the back, none is larger than that left by Montreal centerback and 2015 MLS Defender of the Year Laurent Ciman, who has joined Belgium’s national team at a training camp in Switzerland prior to the 2016 European Championship.
Former international Marc Wilmots took over the national team shortly before the 2012 Euros, for which Belgium failed to qualify. Wilmots guided Belgium into the 2014 World Cup and a quarterfinal (after beating the USA, 2-1) won by Argentina, 2-1. Ciman made the squad for Brazil and didn’t make an appearance. He also didn’t play for Belgium in any of his Euro qualifiers and has only nine caps, but will be in France next month.
“It is a great source of pride for me to represent my country – and also for the Impact and for every Quebecer that has supported me,” said Ciman, who was also named to the MLS Best XI after playing 27 games, scoring two goals, and notching two assists in his first MLS season. “I’ve achieved this thanks in part to them and to their support. I didn’t do this alone. My teammates helped me greatly as well. I want to thank everyone.”
He could miss as many as seven MLS games if Belgium reaches the final. Its first game is against Italy June 13 and Ireland and Sweden are also in its first-round group. The tournament concludes July 7.