Columbus Crew SC's hopes of winning a second MLS Cup final suffered an immense blow on Thursday night when the team announced that midfielders Darlington Nagbe and Pedro Santos would be out for the match.
The Crew are scheduled to play the Seattle Sounders FC in the MLS Cup final on Saturday at Columbus' home venue of MAPFRE Stadium, but both players were deemed "medically not cleared to play."
Columbus had confirmed that an another player has tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of Crew players who have contracted the virus to 10 since the start of the MLS Cup playoffs. Because of privacy laws, the Crew aren't able to disclose which players have been affected.
Earlier this week, the team revealed that seven players who have previously tested positive for COVID-19 had either already resumed training or would do so soon.
But Nagbe tweeted on Friday that he tested positive for the virus, adding that he showed no symptoms.
"I tested positive for covid and currently have no symptoms," Nagbe wrote. "My family and myself are feeling well, which is most important. I've worn masks, washed my hands, and limited contact with others but still contracted the virus.
"... After such a long and tough season, I'm gutted to not be able to play in the final on Saturday with the team."
The announcement comes on the same day that MLS Players Association executive director Bob Foose announced that "almost 20%" of the league's players had tested positive for COVID-19 at some point during the season.
But the loss of Nagbe in particular will be nearly impossible to overcome. Nagbe, 30, is in his first season with the Crew after having twice previously won MLS Cups, with the Portland Timbers in 2015 and Atlanta United FC in 2018. He recorded one goal and one assist in 18 league and playoff appearances this season, but his ability to keep possession is seen as vital to keeping the Crew attack operating near its peak.
Santos, 32, is in his fourth season with Columbus, contributing eight goals and eight assists in 25 league and playoff appearances this season.