For the fifth and final time in the 2019 Major League Soccer regular season, Columbus Crew SC takes part in a Wednesday night game on the back of a contest just four days prior. While Black & Gold fans are understandably excited for the second meeting between Hell is Real rivals this weekend Columbus has another opponent to attend to, this one in the Bronx.
The Crew and New York City FC will meet for the second time in the 2019 midweek after battling to a 2-2 draw in early June. Since that point, the two teams have gone in different trajectories as they race toward the postseason.
According to statistics site FiveThirtyEight, New York City is nearly assured of the MLS Cup playoffs with a greater than 99 percent of clinching a postseason berth and a 43 percent chance of earning a first-round bye awarded to the top team in each conference.
The same can’t be said for Columbus, who come into Wednesday’s contest with less than a 1 precent chance to making the postseason.
However the game isn’t played on paper and a result on Wednesday would, at least for now, help keep the Black & Gold’s playoff hopes alive. Let’s take a look at what they can expect from NYCFC during this midweek contest.
New York City at a glance:
Leading scorer: Héber (12)
Assists leader: Maximiliano Morales (16)
The last time they met
The previous meeting between the two teams was the final appearance for goalkeeper Zack Steffen in black and gold. Forward Gyasi Zardes got the Crew rolling by converting a penalty kick in the 28th minute. The visitors answered back in the 57th minute as Héber scored after a through ball deflected perfectly to the forward, allowing him to shoot uncontested against Steffen.
It didn’t take long for the home supporters to get excited again as Pedro Santos buried a beautiful shot, beating goalkeeper Sean Johnson to his right just four minutes later.
A rocket of a goal from Valentín Castellanos allowed the visitors to share the points and spoil Steffen’s departure.
Things haven’t changed since we outlined the New York City attack back in June. One thing that is different about the attack is Maxi Morales settling into the role of facilitator. The 32-year-old midfielder is the league-leader in assists and looks to combine with Héber whenever possible in the attack.
City still relies on taking the ball wide and getting service into the penalty box via low-hit crosses. This opens up the defense to the potential of allowing a tap-in finish or a rebound for an attacker to pounce on.
Teams who counter-press seem to have good success against NYCFC. It’s not unreasonable to think that Caleb Porter will start a reserve-heavy lineup on Wednesday. Fresh legs may win the day for the Black and Gold.
Creative passing will be imperative to penetrating the defense and allowing the Crew to get into dangerous areas on the pitch. Lackadaisical passing will kill any hope of a promising attack and a chance to claim victory.
How the Crew win
We preached creativity during the last scouting report in June but the clock is quickly reaching midnight on the playoff hopes for the Crew. It’s time to be aggressive. The moment that Columbus gets into the final third, the team must look to take a shot on target and chase the second ball.
The defense will be tested and it’s imperative that the Black & Gold contain Morales and Héber. Giving the attackers chances early could spell disaster and put the proverbial nail in the coffin on any hope of a playoff berth in 2019.