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Massive Predictions: New York City FC at Columbus Crew SC

Can the Black & Gold take down the Citizens?

MLS: New York City FC at Columbus Crew SC Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday’s contest between Columbus Crew SC and New York City FC features two similar teams. Although they do it in different ways, both sides like to play attacking-, possession-style soccer led by up-and-coming, young managers in Gregg Berhatler and Patrick Vieira.

So far this season, the Black & Gold have had more success, but not by much. Crew SC sit tied for second in the Eastern Conference, while NYCFC is in seventh but only three points back.

City certainly have the bigger names with the likes of former Barcelona striker David Villa and veteran Italian international Andrea Pirlo. While those two capture the headlines, players such as Rodney Wallace and Jack Harrison have been influential offensively while the addition of goalkeeper Sean Johnson has helped to improve the defense early in the year.

Columbus relies on lesser known names, but has found success so far this season. With newcomers Artur and Alex Crognale out of the central midfield and center-back spots respectively, Berhalter will have to reshuffle his lineup that is looking to respond from a 2-0 defeat at the hand of the New York Red Bulls last week.

Can Crew SC maintain its unbeaten start to the season at MAPFRE Stadium and take home a full three points Saturday night? Let’s see what our staff expects from this game.

Josh Mlot

This should be an interesting battle between two sides with similar profiles. Both teams have important injury absences. And I do worry a little about Jonathan Mensah coming off a few weeks without game action suddenly having to defend David Villa. That will be the key along with, I think, finding a way to force Andrea Pirlo to defend, which he doesn't want to do. This is a close one, but I give Columbus the home edge.
Columbus Crew SC 2 New York City FC 1

Kris Landis

It was a bad night in New Jersey for Crew SC, but I think they'll be able to move past it quickly. I think this game really hinges on how Jonathan Mensah looks coming back from injury. David Villa is a handful for any defender, and will prove a stern test for this Crew backline. Luckily, the supporting cast around him doesn't seem to be as strong as it could (should?) be, which means if the Black & Gold can stifle Villa, they'll have a decent chance at winning this one. I expect to see one of the more forward players pestering Pirlo every time he picks up the ball, which should limit his effectiveness.

I think Crew SC get goals in this one because NYCFC's back line looked to be struggling with players with good movement, and that's Ola Kamara all over. Some matches the Crew's "bomb down the wings and cross" attack plan doesn't work, much to fans' frustration, but I think this week it will be a recipe for success.

The Black & Gold give one up, but score a bundle and get a big three points.
Columbus Crew SC 3 New York City FC 1

Collin Johnson

Last season, this match would have been a battle between two possession-loving teams where Crew SC would have stuck to their system no matter what. In 2017 though, Crew SC have seemed willing to throw off the mantle of possession-stat-winner for an approach more tailored to their opponent.

NYCFC has won the possession battle in every match they've played so far and, with 10 points from their first seven matches, are only three points behind Crew SC. Columbus has still played the possession-based system of the past, but they were willing to let D.C. United possess more of the ball in a week three win on the road. Crew SC also forced possession-averse Orlando City to see almost 50 percent of the ball in a win at MAPFRE stadium.

Add in the defensive work needed to close out Jack Harrison and David Villa, and this match looks like an early season bellwether for Crew SC's growth in 2017. I'm still predicting a Kekuta Manneh debut-match substitution and match winning goal until he sees the field.
Columbus Crew SC 2 New York City FC 1

Nathaniel Marhefka

I'm not convinced NYCFC is a great team. They sit seventh, good in and among itself, but they have one of the easiest schedules in MLS so far this season. Of their three victories this year, the San Jose Earthquakes are the best team they have beaten — just to put that in perspective. I'm not saying that they won't go far this season, but I need to see more of them against top opponents to be convinced.

While Crew SC has had some issues of late, I do think they are the better team and should see this one out at home. The Black & Gold are unbeaten at home this season and have shown capable of scoring several goals in front of the Massive fanbase. This goes to Gregg Berhalter's team.
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Patrick Murphy

So far this year, every time Crew SC has suffered a defeat, the Black & Gold have responded with a win in the next contest. As you know, Columbus fell 2-0 to the Red Bulls a week ago, so the question is, can this continue?

I think so. City has talent, there’s no doubt about that. But it’s likely one of their better attackers, Rodney Wallace, will be playing left back, which means trying to defend Harrison Afful and whoever starts on the right win. Jack Harrison and David Villa are of course a handful, but Nicolai Naess has been quietly impressive this year and Gregg Berhalter signed Jonathan Mensah to a Designated Player contract for a reason.

I’m interested to see what Crew SC do in the middle of the park after Mohammed Abu got a full week of training with Artur out. Berhalter worked directly with Abu and Wil Trapp in training, so he obviously is making this area of the field a focus, and rightfully so given its importance in soccer and this game in particular.

I expect both teams to come out and play, but I think Columbus remains unbeaten at home.
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Ralph Schudel

I'm very excited for this match. New York City FC have shown a lot of promise this season and they are probably the team that plays closest to the style of Columbus. By now you already know of the star power with players like David Villa and Andrea Pirlo, but really pay attention to their younger guys in this match. Jack Harrison is an exciting player who is gifted with both feet and can hit you when you least expect it. Alexander Ring is a player that is benefiting from playing alongside Pirlo and the two are in-sync with one another. Their outside-back Ethan White is a joy to watch as well. He isn't going to steal any headlines but he quietly puts in a solid shift and does what is asked of him.

I think this will be a high scoring affair between the two teams. New York has conceded seven goals in the seven matches they have played and Crew SC is susceptible to conceding goals as well. Be sure to watch Federico Higuain and Andrea Pirlo in this match because I believe the two will have it out and try to one-up their opposing counterpart. Enjoy this match and even if you are a casual observer this game should have something for everyone.
Columbus Crew SC 2 New York City FC 1

Nick Clarkson

After falling on the road at the Red Bulls last week, Columbus Crew SC dropped one spot in the East Conference Standings to second place behind Orlando City SC. New York City FC enters MAPFRE Stadium after a 2-1 loss to the Lions at home last Sunday, and have secured just one road win in three tries this season after winning seven matches on the road in 2016.

Additionally, midfielder Justin Meram has had a hot start to his 2017 campaign, along with massive success against NYCFC since they joined MLS in 2015. Meram has racked up three goals and three assists in five meetings with City while midfielder Ethan Finlay has chipped in with three goals and two assists of his own.

Collectively, Crew SC remains unbeaten in Columbus thus far in 2017 — and with NYCFC, begin a three-game home stand. I think the Black & Gold will look to take advantage of the stretch of matches in front of their home fans early in the season. Meram will contribute to the scoresheet with an assist and a goal, while striker Ola Kamara benefits from his helper by sealing the three points.
Columbus Crew SC 2 New York City FC 0

Josh Enke

NYCFC only has one win over Crew SC since joining the MLS in 2016 and it was the last meeting. It was a convincing 4-1 win by the expansion side, but Columbus is a very different team this season. With a renewed roster and surprising strategic flexibility, New York City will be competing with a fresh Black & Gold. To kick off the three-game homestand, I expect a convincing win Saturday evening.
Columbus Crew SC 3 New York City FC 1

Patrick Guldan

Columbus will face possession minded team in NYCFC. In the past, Crew SC would try to purposes, but now they have the capabilities to absorb pressure in the defensive phase and transition quickly. While the Black & Gold will miss Artur, Mohammed

Abu had nearly a full game to get back to game speed and Jonathan Mensah has the talent to solidify the back that struggled last week. That experience and counterattacking ability will help them ease past a defensively fragile NYC team.
Columbus Crew SC 2 New York City FC 1

Everyone is predicting a home win for Crew SC. Do you agree? Let us know below.