Preview: New York City FC vs Columbus Crew

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by JACK HAZZARD

Coming off of an underwhelming draw last Friday against the San Jose Earthquakes, NYCFC will travel to Mapfre Stadium this upcoming Saturday to take on an underperforming Columbus Crew.

Last week’s match against the Earthquakes resulted in a dull 0-0 draw that gave New York a much-needed point to help secure the top spot in the Eastern Conference yet again. Much of that result is a credit to the tireless Josh Saunders who made several key saves. Nevertheless, NYCFC will need to pick up all three points this weekend if they hope to retain their top spot in the conference. Creeping up quietly in second place is Toronto FC, who currently have a game in hand on New York, meaning that if NYCFC wants to hold on to their current position, they will need to grab an away win this Saturday. On the other hand, the Columbus Crew is in dire need of a few wins if they hope to sneak their way into the playoffs. After falling to the Portland Timbers in the MLS Championship match last winter, the Crew has been a shadow of their former self. The Ohio-based club currently sits ninth in the East with only three wins to their name, the lowest win total throughout Major League Soccer. The Columbus Crew has not appeared as a threat for most clubs this season, suggesting NYCFC may enjoy a comfortable win away from home this weekend.

Will New York be able to prolong their time in first place or will they surprisingly fall to an underwhelming Columbus Crew?


Match Information

Saturday, August 13th at Mapfre Stadium, 7:30pm ET Kickoff

Watch: YES Network, MLS Live

Listen: 660 WFAN, 1280 WADO

Stream: nycfc.com/radio

Referee: Sorin Stoica
AR1: Sean Hurd
AR2: Anthony Vasoli
4TH: Silviu Petrescu

2016 MLS Records:

NYCFC: 37 points (10 wins, 7 draws, 7 losses)

Columbus Crew SC: 19 points (3 wins, 10 draws, 8 losses)

Projected Lineups:

NYCFC: Josh Saunders; Jason Hernandez Frederic Brillant, Maxime Chanot, R.J. Allen; Andrea Pirlo, Andoni Iraola, Frank Lampard; Jack Harrison, David Villa, Thomas McNamara

Columbus Crew SC: Steve Clark; Harrison Afful, Michael Parkhurst, Tyson Wahl, Waylon Francis; Wil Trapp, Tony Tchani, Cedrick Mabwati, Justin Meram; Federico Higuain, Ola Kamara


The NYCFC Attack v the Columbus Crews’ Defense

Jack Harrison, David Villa, and Thomas McNamara vs. Harrison Afful, Michael Parkhurst, Tyson Wahl, and Waylon Francis (and Steve Clark)

Last Friday’s match in San Jose marked the first time in a while where NYCFC were unable to put the ball in the back of the net. After New York’s demolition of Colorado two weeks ago, it was difficult to foresee NYCFC not scoring in last week’s game. Nevertheless, San Jose was able to contain New York’s offense, which could prove both beneficial and terrifying for Columbus. Friday’s match between San Jose and New York should give the Crew ideas on how to defend NYCFC’s captain David Villa. If Columbus hope to keep a clean sheet, they should look to emulate San Jose’s defense. On the other hand, having gone a match without a goal should leave New York’s offense hungry. Having lost previously to Toronto 3-0, the Columbus Crew’s defense is in disarray, something that NYCFC will keenly take advantage of.

Advantage: NYCFC


The Crew’s front line v the NYCFC back line

Federico Higuain and Ola Kamara vs. Jason Hernandez, Frederic Brillant, Maxime Chanot, and R.J. Allen (and Josh Saunders)

Although New York’s offense was unable to score last week, their defense put in an adequate performance that sealed them a well-earned point. Newly signed center back Maxime Chanot‘s performance was applauded as it earned him a spot in his first ever MLS Team of the Week. Apart from Chanot’s performance, solid outings from R.J. Allen and Jason Hernandez on the sides allowed New York to possess cleanly from the back. In addition, last Friday’s match helped see New York grab their first clean sheet since early June, suggesting Patrick Vieira may have found himself a consistent backline. Nonetheless, the Columbus Crew possess a skilled and calm attack that could shake up a sound NYCFC defense. The Crew typically slowly build up their play before dishing it to either Frederico Higuain or Ola Kamara, who both have been bright spots this year. Columbus’ main threat will be through their cautious offense this weekend that could very well surprise and unexpected New York side.

Advantage: Even


Midfielders

Andrea Pirlo, Andoni Iraola, and Frank Lampard vs. Wil Trapp, Tony Tchani, Cedrick Mabwati, and Justin Meram

When compared to NYCFC, the Columbus Crew’s midfield is inexperienced and average. United States international pool player Wil Trapp seems to float in and out of matches, leaving Tchani alone and looking puzzled half of the time. In addition, wingers Cedrick Mabwati and Justin Meram are not much of a threat against defenses. The two wide men seem to attack randomly as well as rarely give support to their industrious forwards. When Columbus takes on a skillful and precise NYCFC midfield, they may have their work cut for them. If given time and space, both Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo will pick apart Columbus’ defense with sharp passing and impeccable runs. If New York’s midfield Designed Players are able to control the match, it will result in a calm outing for defensive midfielder Andoni Iraola.

Advantage: NYCFC


The Coaches

Patrick Vieira vs. Gregg Berhalter

Both Patrick Vieira and Gregg Berhalter are respected managers in Major League Soccer. However, this season, there is little doubt as to who is better. Although Berhalter enjoyed an amazing year with Columbus in 2015, the manager has yet to find the right niche for his side. Losing Kei Kamara early on the season has left a huge hole up front, leaving newly signed Ola Kamara with big shoes to fill. Berhalter went out during the transfer window and grabbed a few key editions, but it may be to late as it looks as if the Crew will miss out on this year’s MLS playoffs.

Advantage: NYCFC


Intangibles

NYCFC will travel to Columbus, Ohio this Saturday, wrapping up a quick two-game road trip that has seen the team travel across the country. Having a full week to recover after the match in San Jose may do New York some good, but, it may not be enough when compared to the two weeks of rest that the Columbus Crew have had. Playing away is always difficult, especially in Columbus, whose supporters shake up rival opposition consistently.

Advantage: COLUMBUS CREW


Prediction

NYCFC will look to hold on to their top spot in the Eastern Conference against a weaker Columbus Crew side. Heading into Mapfre Stadium may be a challenge but NYCFC will be able to handle it in order to grab an easy 2-0 win.