Columbus Crew SC kicks off a three game homestand, all against Eastern Conference foes. New York City FC showed off some impressive offensive displays early, but their defense again struggled, now the City blues find themselves in seventh place in the East with a 3-3-1 record.
NYCFC has some dangerous offensive weapons. David Villa remains very good, Jack Harrison is more explosive every week, and Maxi Morales has shown sparks as he adapts to MLS.
The defense remains a work in progress. Ronald Matarrita will be out due to injury and NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira is still trying to figure out how to replace the vital left back. Rodney Wallace struggled last week, but there aren’t any other obvious candidates to replace him.
Gregg Berhalter has his own injury replacements to figure out. Jonathan Mensah is ready to return and will slot in for the injured Alex Crognale. It’s a situation that avoids any uncomfortable debates about who starts on the backline.
Midfield dynamo Artur is also out for several weeks and Mohammed Abu replaced him in New York. Berhalter had commented that Nico Naess is even a candidate in midfield, but Abu is likely to be the guy in the middle. He’s struggled in his limited minutes this year, but now has had a full week to train and bigger things are expected.
A Crew SC win could push the Black & Gold into first place (Orlando is currently in action at publishing time) and a loss would push Columbus into the very busy middle of the conference table.
Keys to the Match
The Fulcrum: Mohammed Abu was an opening day starter for Crew SC, but soon lost out to Artur for minutes in the midfield. Can the Ghanian get up to match speed and lessen the big loss of Artur.
Mr. Right Side: Ethan Finlay hasn’t produced. Niko Hansen has a bit of rookie inconsistency. Kekuta Manneh hasn’t made an appearance. Columbus will need some production out of the right side of the midfield that has struggled to be dangerous on a regular basis.
David vs. Jonathan: Crew SC’s designated player is ready to return to the lineup just as Alex Crognale is injured. Jonathan hasn’t played since March 25th and has missed four games. Can he get up to speed against one of the best strikers in MLS after a long layoff?
How to Watch:
Date/Time: Saturday April 29th, 7:30 p.m. ET
Venue: MAPFRE Stadium (Columbus, Ohio)
Watch: The CW Columbus, Spectrum Sports, BCSN2 (Channel Guide)
Stream: MLS Live
Listen: CD102.5 FM (English) La Mega 103.1 FM (Spanish)