The 2016 season will draw to a close today in New York City. Last season, Crew SC made it to December. This year, they are done by Halloween after missing the playoffs. Columbus has little to play for but pride. New York City FC is looking hold off Toronto and secure the second seed in the Eastern Conference for the playoffs with a win.
This season will go down as the second worst in team history. Crew SC can’t climb above a bad 2000 team and they can’t match the truly abysmal 2006 version under the first season of Sigi Schmid.
Even if the club can’t achieve anything, that doesn’t mean the players don’t have something to play for. Brad Stuver is expected to get his second start in place of Steve Clark. Stuver had an up and down game against the Red Bulls, giving up a penalty then saving it, letting in three goals (with some porous defense), but making some outstanding stops. With Clark entrenched as the first choice and Zack Steffen as the goalkeeper of the future, this is a good chance for him to show his skills to technical staffs outside of Columbus with hopes of more playing time.
The young Panamanian attacker Cristian Martinez also got his first start last week. At 19, he’s a player that still needs to develop. He’s on loan and it’s apparent Crew SC is talking a long look to see if there’s enough talent to keep him around. He may not start, but he’ll see some significant minutes in a last effort to impress the coaching staff.
It could also be a game of finales. Michael Parkhurst is likely to make his 34th start of the season and 100th appearance of his Crew SC in the heart of the defense. It could be his last. Parkhurst will be out of contract and has clearly stated that he still sees himself to be a starter in MLS. It’s not assured he’d be a starter for Columbus. Crew SC has had a poor defense all season and Nicolai Naess and Gaston Sauro appear to be the future. That leaves little room for Parkhurst.
Federico Higuain has had an injury shortened season, but may be ready to return to the team sheet. The Argentine playmaker has been the key to the Crew SC offense since joining the team in July of 2012, but has only played 19 times this year. Over the course of five seasons, Higuain has 39 goals and 35 assists in 122 appearances. Those numbers dipped to four goals and three assists this season. Higuain certainly makes an impact beyond the numbers, but he will be 32 next year with a building injury history. Crew SC may make a break.
Keys to the Match
Cohesiveness: The team sheet will be jumbled again today. Crew SC struggled last week to create any danger on offense until they were down 3-0. Some of that can be tied to the team really struggling to link. Another week of practice for Martinez and Stuver hopefully will help.
Questions at Forward (again): Ola Kamara and Adam Jahn are both on the injury list, so it’s not clear who may start. Conor Casey is once again healthy and may get the nod, but Kamara did travel with the team so he may be ready to make a cameo.
Narrowed Focus: Yankee Stadium is very narrow so Crew SC won’t be able to play with the width of their wingbacks. That means that Columbus will have to look to play direct quickly, making Justin Meram that more important.
How to Watch
Date/Time: October 23th, 2016 at 4:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Yankee Stadium - Bronx, New York
Television: The CW Columbus, Time Warner Cable SportsChannel
Online: MLS Live
Radio: CD 102.5 (English), La Mega 103.1 (Spanish)