It has been a turbulent week for Columbus Crew SC fans, but there is still soccer to be played and a lot at stake on Sunday afternoon.
Columbus were victorious against Orlando City last Sunday and have put themselves in position to finish as high as second place in the Eastern Conference before the MLS Cup playoffs begin.
The Black & Gold will need at least a tie from rivals Toronto FC in the clash with Atlanta United and the Houston Dynamo to draw or defeat the Chicago Fire to secure a first-round bye and leap into the No. 2 seed.
New York City have been a model of consistency for most of this season, but have recently left the door open for other teams to sneak into second place. City have gone just 2-2-4 in the team’s last eight matches.
However, the Blues have yet to lose consecutive matches this season. Crew SC has the chance to start a losing streak for NYCFC on Sunday, just as both clubs prepare for the playoffs.
Let’s take a look at New York City.
City at a glance
Leading Goal Scorer: David Villa (20)
Assists Leader: Maxi Moralez (7)
The Boys in Blue
NYCFC has been on fire and chomping at the heels of first place Toronto for much of the season. David Villa continues to tap into the fountain of youth and has put together another productive season and midfielder Jack Harrison has begun to blossom, showing signs of being the player NYCFC hoped for.
Harrison even earned his first call up for the England U-21 squad, calling the experience “fantastic.”
In addition to their offensive success, the Blues have vastly improved on defense. Sean Johnson has been a catalyst for the group, with City conceding 16 fewer goals then a season ago.
Goodbye to a legend
Last week, the Black & Gold bid adieu to Kaka when they were victorious in Orlando against the Lions. Andrea Pirlo announced that he would retire at season’s end meaning Crew SC have another opportunity to send a legend out on a sour note. It remains unclear if and for how long the Italian international plays during Sunday’s match at Citi Field.
His journey to Major League Soccer hasn’t been the swan song that NYCFC and Pirlo had hoped for as the midfielder has been plagued by injury and unable to keep up with the physical demands of the league.
How Crew SC win
Simply put, block out the noise of the potential move to Austin, TX and continue to do what has been working. Crew SC didn’t arrive here by accident and have turned it on at the right time. The Black & Gold are 6-0-3 in their last nine contests and, as previously mentioned, can jump to second place in the East with a victory and some help around the league.
Expect this match to be incredibly wide open as both teams fight for supremacy. In previous engagements between these two sides, Columbus and New York City have scored a combined 28 goals and neither team has ever gone scoreless in the series.
Expect an all out dogfight Sunday afternoon at Citi Field.