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Crossing the Touchline: Talking New York City FC at Columbus Crew SC with Sam Dunn of Hudson River Blue

Crew SC and NYCFC meet for the first time ever at MAPFRE Stadium Wednesday night.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

It's been a week and a half since Columbus Crew SC last took to the field. In that match, Kei Kamara scored twice to bring the Black & Gold back from behind in a 2-1 victory at the Colorado Rapids.

Not only are fans clamoring for Crew SC soccer, but they should be excited about the mid-week opponent.

New York City FC comes to Columbus for the first time in the club's existence and will bring with it some major star power.

City is led by David Villa, who has 14 goals on the season. He is currently in third in Major League Soccer behind the Black & Gold's Kamara and Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco. He is the only of New York City's Designated Players who have been with the club the entire season.

Apart from him, Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard complete NYCFC's list of UEFA Champions League winners. Pirlo has four appearances for New York with one assist, while Lampard has only made two appearances and is likely out for this contest.

To learn a little bit about the expansion club, we reached out to our SB Nation counterpart and discussed the game with editor Sam Dunn.

Questions for Hudson River Blue

Massive Report: A lot of talk this week in town has centered around the differences between the two clubs' philosophies in terms of acquiring players. Obviously NYCFC has money to spend and brought in big-name players, while Columbus works on a smaller budget and looks for players that are usually considered under-valued. How do New York City fans feel about the team's approach? How has it been watching some of these superstars on a fairly regular basis - one they arrived of course?

Hudson River Blue:Given that this is an inaugural season, the star power on hand at New York City FC has been a tremendous source of excitement and pride for the fans. Yes, the Frank Lampard contractual saga was an absolute embarrassment -- we made a whole podcast series about how much of a disaster it turned out to be -- you don't get to 17,000 season ticket holders this quickly by accident. The Villa and Pirlo show has been magnificent to watch, and there's no direct replacement for what NYCFC's World Cup winners can do. Hudson River Blue has been wary, however, about the extent to which the pursuit of pizazz has come at the expense of sound, long-term roster construction.

We're very much entrenched in an era where the FIFA video games are king. Fans generally spend more time with their favorite teams in the games than in real life. This is innocent fun by-and-large, but over time, this dynamic has scrambled a number of peoples' brains to believe that actual clubs can be built like they are in FIFA Ultimate Team mode.

Well, that's exactly what NYCFC is, and it amounts to one big eventual quagmire as soon as the novelty of the team's very existence wears off.

You don't win trophies in MLS by having the best  Designated Players. It takes a deep squad that can survive injuries, win ugly, and catch no small amount of luck. Look at LA Galaxy: yes, their DP's are pure class, but if they retain the title, it will be because of guys like Sebastian Lletget just as much. His signing wasn't due to their largesse-- it was just a keen, reasoned move.

With a tenderfoot sporting director like Claudio Reyna in charge, New York City has outed itself as a downright novice when it comes to building a roster fit to compete in the long term. $300,000 a year for Adam Nemec? A couple Colombian spec signings who know how to run and little else? Those aren't the kinds of players you need to support a squad top-heavy with European talent.

Especially considering that not a single one of NYCFC's current DP's will be around (if and) when this alleged stadium gets built, what's the blueprint here? Signing Balotelli once David Villa's knees blow out?

In the here-and-now, my outlook would be a hell of a lot brighter if Frank Lampard didn't constitute such a glaring albatross around the neck of the franchise. He chose to stay at Manchester City instead of becoming a likely-instant hero in the cultural capital of the world, and when he finally did arrive, the team has only managed to win when Frank was out injured. With the playoff race approaching the put-up-or-shut-up stage, there's no more time for Jason Kreis to tinker. Right now, the gaffer's got four midfielders that know how to win games behind Villa. And not one of them is named Lampard.

But you can't pay a man six million bones to rot on the bench, can you? A more focused -- or even constrained -- approach to this roster might have served everyone better.

MR: What has it been like for NYCFC with the knowledge of Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo arriving in the summer? Obviously some guys had to fill in, but they knew their roles would be diminished (at least in Lampard's case) once the bigger names arrived. I feel that would be tough to deal with. Have you seen that from some of these players?

HRB: The players saw the writing on the wall. There was never going to be any space for Jeb Brovsky, Sebastian Velasquez, Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Mehdi Ballouchy, or Ned Grabavoy once the inevitable signings poured in. A lot of these squad players, however, are uniquely positioned in that they have histories with Jason Kreis. The gaffer has shown, at times, way-too-much faith in some of these guys, much to the chagrin of the fans. But speaking with a number of them personally, they're mostly just excited to be playing with such top-class international talent. Mix Diskerud, who is perhaps this team's fifth most important midfielder, has long-identified Andrea Pirlo as his favorite player. He has marveled out loud at the footwork and vision of the Bearded One, and he hasn't complained, even if it meant having to come off the bench. They guys just want to win.

MR: David Villa is a superstar, but always seems to put in the work to get his results. How refreshing is it to see a guy come to MLS and really take things seriously, playing as hard as he would if he were still over in Europe competing for Champions League spots?

HRB: Guaje has been magisteeeeeerial! His work rate alone is stunning for a man of his considerable mileage. In that regard, he's the stark opposite of the rather hands-off Thierry Henry. Yes, he can sulk a bit when things aren't going well, but seeing him race back into the deep midfield to gather the ball in the pre-Pirlo days only to race back forward and deke defenders out of their shoes is something to behold.

His rapport with Pirlo and the invulnerable Kwadwo Poku has presented an added dimension of late. Those two help space the field in a big way, freeing up Villa to scream down the left half and get exactly what he wants, even though opponents know he sticks almost exclusively to that side of the pitch. They still can't stop him.

He does this other thing, too-- the guy isn't anything resembling a "classic" number nine, but he's still found ways to hold up the ball with his back to goal. He does this thing where he lowers himself into basically a squat so bigger, stronger opponents can't knock him off the ball. It's like watching a guard make post moves in the NBA. The man is fearless, and has proven to be equal parts talent and steel.

He scored on free kicks in consecutive games. He bagged three braces in a five-game span. He may very well finish with the Golden Boot. This is an expansion team, but don't tell Guaje! He's the consummate professional out there. There's a reason they gave him the captain's armband even as he had just begun learning English.

To see Massive Report's answers to Hudson River Blue, jump over to their site here.