On “Decision Day” 2017, Columbus Crew SC meets New York City FC with plenty still to play for for both teams.
City can lock up the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference for the MLS Cup playoffs with a victory, while Crew SC can also climb that high, but will need help from other results.
It is only the second game of the season for these two clubs who met back in late April. That was a 3-2 win for the visiting New York City side during an up-and-down stretch for the Black & Gold.
The Citizens have just one win in their last six matches, while Columbus hasn’t lost a game in nine contests.
To learn a little better what’s going on with with the “home” side — this game was moved from Yankee Stadium to Citi Field — we turned to our friend Jake Gofman at Hudson River Blue.
Questions for Hudson River Blue
Massive Report: This is obviously a big game for NYCFC. A win and second place in the East is secured. A loss and all sorts of madness can ensue. How is the team viewing this final home game of the regular season?
Hudson River Blue: You've done a good job of summarizing what's at stake and how nervy this final weekend has become. It looked like the team was headed for the second seed about a month ago, and while we still control our destiny, we've made a mess of these last few weeks and are now in our current predicament.
Patrick Vieira and NYC are looking at Sunday's game as a must win. New York has to get a result for two reasons. First, the bye is crucial. Anything can happen in the wacky world of MLS, so skipping straight to the semi-finals is a luxury we can't afford to give up. Second, NYC has to get a strong performance in ahead of the Postseason. The team has been shuffled, injury-ridden and disjointed over the last several weeks and getting a win against a quality team like Crew would (hopefully) return the team to form when it counts most.
New York controls its own destiny but knows what's at stake with a loss or draw. I expect the team to be firing on all cylinders Sunday.
MR: Three years of Andrea Pirlo in MLS with New York City and Saturday will be his last game. He's already a legend in the soccer world, but what will his legacy be for the club and the league?
HRB: Sunday will be fitting as a proxy for Pirlo's time with New York as it's very unlikely the legend takes the field at all. Pirlo is undoubtedly one of the greatest midfield players and passers in the history of the sport; however, his time with New York has been a major disappointment.
When he arrived in New York there were already concerns that Il Maestro had lost several steps (that he never really had) but the expectation was that his passing would still be there. In his first full year he had spells where he was very effective and his genius would occasionally shine linking up with David Villa.
That said, his presence on the field exposed New York constantly and contributed to our MLS-worst defense last season. This year Pirlo lost out to a younger and more dynamic player in Yangel Herrera, and his only appearances lately have come filling in for injured players. NYC has a very ugly record this year in games Pirlo has started and has been a considerably better squad without him.
Unfortunately, Pirlo's will go down as one of the league's worst designated players. While sad, I put as much of the blame on Pirlo as I do management, who chose to sell it's brand over putting out a good team. Let Pirlo's time in New York be a warning to MLS teams considering bringing in a prolific but aging European players.
MR: One of the things the players around here have been asked this week is about the new venue for this. They say it won't matter too much on the field, but what about off the field for fans? How will the move from Yankee Stadium to Citi Field change things from the supporter's perspective?
HRB: It's frustrating for sure, but it's something supporters should expect when their team is renting a stadium and doesn't own their own venue. I've been a season ticket holder since inception, and this year is the first time we've had games moved because of conflicts. If you ask me we've been lucky.
What's frustrating is the timing. We are losing a pivotal home game when we need it most. NYC has been very difficult to beat at Yankee Stadium, and moving to a more neutral site is a big break for Columbus. I still expect the showing to be good because of the magnitude, but I'm sure it won't be as good as it would have been in Yankee Stadium.
It's a shame, but it's the price you pay when you're just a tenant.
To see Massive Report’s responses to Hudson River Blue’s questions, take a look at their 3 Questions story.