Let’s not mince words, if you are a fan of Columbus Crew SC, you are feeling uninspired, hopeless and less than thrilled to attend Saturday’s game against New York City FC.
For starters, the team is in dreadful form. The Black & Gold picked up points in one of the team’s last nine outings, scoring just seven goals during this run.
Piling on to these dreadful facts, Saturday’s match marks the final time Zack Steffen takes the field as a member of the Crew. Following the match, he will join the United States Men’s National Team in Gold Cup action and then move on to Europe to take the next step in his career as he joins English Premier League champions Manchester City.
Another team sporting the blue of the Citizens heads to MAPFRE Stadium this weekend looking to spoil the going away party. NYCFC come into Central Ohio in good form, claiming points in each of their last eight outings with four wins.
What will it take to get the gray cloud following the Black & Gold to dissipate? Let’s take a look at what the Crew can expect from NYCFC on Saturday evening.
New York City at a glance:
Leading Scorer: Three players tied with 3 goals
Assists Leader: Maximiliano Moralez (5)
How they play
Head coach Domenec Torrent appears fond of utilizing a 3-4-3 attacking formation. He instructs his outside midfielders to push up the field and get higher than the holding midfielders. Once in the offensive third, those wide players (either Anton Tinnerholm or Ronald Matarrita) attempt to link up with the forwards and encourage them into the penalty area by utilizing some creative passing.
If the attack isn’t proving successful, the ball is recycled out to the holding midfielders (Alexander Ring and Tony Rocha) where they look to hit diagonal balls wide. From there, the wingets get into the final third and hit low crosses toward the three forwards (Maxi Moralez, Héber Araújo dos Santos and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi). One of the forwards gathers the cross and hits a low shot towards the opposing goalkeeper, hoping to cause a rebound in which one of the runners (usually the back post runner) gets an easy tap-in opportunity.
The two wingers join the backline and play a zone defense. The NYCFC center backs also get an assist from Ring and Rocha in the defensive midfield as the unit work to condense space and force a turnover.
Teams with crisp and accurate passing on the counter attack tend to do well against the New York City FC defense as some of the defenders get caught ball watching. This leads to opportunities that prove lucrative for the opposition and can cost NYCFC points if they aren’t careful.
Standing at 5-foot-3, 115 pounds, Maximiliano Moralez may be one of the smallest players to set foot on a pitch in Major League Soccer but he plays with tremendous heart. The 32 year old isn’t afraid to go toe to toe with defenders that are taller and stronger than him and most of the time he wins.
Moralez is capable of scoring a wonder goal but also impresses with his work amongst MLS’s elite defenders. He’s a player the Black & Gold must keep in check on Saturday night.
How Crew SC win
Too many times during last week’s match against the Colorado Rapids, the Crew had runners at the top of the penalty box just standing around with no one making an attacking run towards goal. That type of behavior isn’t going to win any soccer games.
Pedro Santos goal in the 28th minute was the best the offense looked all night, creating an overload on the right hand side and uncorking a great shot towards the Rapids’ goal which proved fruitful. More of that from the offense will lead to positive outcomes and turn the tide on this poor run of form.
In addition, Columbus must be creative with the ball. The Crew must pass with purpose, and pepper the goal with shots on target. The NYCFC goalkeeper, Sean Johnson, is known for mishandling the ball on occasion, causing him to concede a silly goal. The Black & Gold must recognize this and shoot early and often once in the offensive third of the field.
It’s going to be a difficult task but Columbus must remain compact as a unit on defense and not allow themselves to be stretched out. As mentioned, New York City likes to work in tight spaces when their outside backs get the ball wide, so limiting the attackers chances on Zack Steffen will go far and perhaps send the backstop out with one final win in Black & Gold.