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Massive Predictions: Crew vs. New York City FC

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Will the Black & Gold get Win 1 in Week 1?

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at New York City FC Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The 2020 Major League Soccer season is upon us. Columbus Crew SC open the team’s 25th campaign on Sunday, welcoming New York City FC to MAPFRE Stadium. Unlike the Crew, City has already played multiple competitive games, defeat AD San Carlos 6-3 on aggregate in the CONCACAF Champions League.

But the Black & Gold enjoyed an undefeated preseason and come into the year excited and motived after a disappointing 2019. Can Columbus knock off the best team in the Eastern Conference in the regular season last year in Week 1? Let’s see what our staff thinks.

Orri Benatar

Two things come to mind for this season opener: goals and stamina. In the time the Crew and New York City FC have played, goals have come in abundance. Seven games have been played at MAPFRE Stadium between these two and 32 goals have been scored. That’s close to five goals a game in Columbus.

In regards to stamina, NYCFC will need to show they have it. The team just played at home Wednesday in the CONCACAF Champions League and with their advancement to the quarterfinals, they have three games within the first two weeks of March. We could very well see new manager Ronny Deila squad rotate in his MLS debut. The energy of Darlington Nagbe and Artur in midfield could be the key to three points.

I’m looking forward to seeing Lucas Zelarayan and Maxi Moralez go toe-to-toe creating chances in what should be a game full of shots. With the home crowd behind them and with fresh legs, the Crew will be raring to go. But even with squad rotation and competitive games already behind their belt, NYCFC is among the best teams out East.
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Andrew Atkins

Nobody said becoming the first undefeated team in MLS history was going to be easy. The Crew faces a brutal start to the season, tasked with facing a stacked NYCFC, the defending MLS Cup Champions Seattle Sounders and rivals from the north Toronto FC all within their first 5 matches. Thankfully, the Black & Gold have a tendency of starting their seasons off hot.

NYCFC, however, is coming off of the team’s best season to date. In 2019, New York City was only handed loses a total of 6 times during the regular season. The club looks to be entering into the 2020 season in top form as well, running through Costa Rican club A.D. San Carlos in the CONCACAF Champions League.

I believe the Crew will continue its newfound goal-scoring ways from the preseason, but I also believe it’s going to be a tough task to take all three points from NYCFC in their current form.
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Jonathan Smith

In what may be one of the most anticipated home openers of all-time, the Crew get a legitimate Cup/Shield contender to measure themselves against in NYCFC. There are an incredible number of new moving parts for this version of the Crew, and with that, so many questions that will certainly take longer than one game to answer. One thing I will be watching all year will be the implementation of Lucas Zelarayan — how quickly does he acclimate to MLS defending? Can he execute the tasks necessary to be a successful No. 10 in Caleb Porter’s system? And how long will it take for him to break a game open?

The Crew will likely need him to have at least a few sterling moments against one of the best teams in the league. But with NYCFC coming off a midweek CONCACAF Champion’s League tilt, perhaps the Crew can catch the opponent a bit flat-footed. Couple that hope with the optimism of new faces and a new season, and I’m going with a Crew win. Merry Crewsmas to you all.
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Derrick Smith

The sun will be shining on MAPFRE Stadium as the hallowed ground plays host to the final full season of Crew soccer before the team moves downtown to its new home.

As for the match, a packed house will witness the promise that is to come with the Crew as they begin finding their rhythm with a new No. 10 and No. 6 in Lucas Zelarayan and Darlington Nagbe. However, an NYCFC side, which has already shined in two CONCACAF Champions League matches, will be ready to play spoiler on opening day.

The two sides split the points and walk away with something to build on.
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Mike Crosky

Perhaps it is the glow and enthusiasm of a new season being upon us, but I believe and envision a Crew season-opening win. It will be interesting to see if NYCFC play its full starting 11 on Sunday, having come off a CONCACAF Champions League match on Wednesday night. NYCFC pulled out a 1-0 win, utilizing their top lineup, so perhaps fatigue may become an issue. Though, that seems unlikely so early in the season. The wear and tear of an MLS campaign shouldn’t kick in until late summer.

On Sunday, the Crew will likely unveil six new starters from the opening day lineup a year ago. With an infusion of new talent and momentum from a solid preseason run, Columbus will have a first-rate challenge ahead of them. On the Massive Report podcast, I originally announced a 2-0 Crew win. But in retrospect, a 2-1 victory feels more likely to me.
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Jay Homan

With two midweek CONCACAF Champions League matches already done for NYCFC and a trip to Columbus and Toronto before their next CCL match, what type of lineup is NYCFC going to roll out for the Crew opener? It might not matter if this new Columbus squad is as exciting as everyone is hyping them up to be. With four goals in the final preseason match, there is an expectation that the Crew will greatly surpass their 39-goal tally in 2019. I don’t expect them to show a lot of flash this early in the season, but more than enough to handle a NYCFC squad who will likely be at 85 percent of their full potential.
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Doug Hildreth

It’s finally here! After an exciting and optimism-inducing off-eason, we are staring the season opener dead in the eyes! We will find out early what this team is made of with a tough Crewmas match up with NYCFC. With so many new additions to Caleb Porter’s side, there are bound to be some growing pains, it may be a slightly slow start, compared to NYFC’s nearly all-returning side. But with Man City USA just having played a CCL game on Wednesday, fatigue is on the Crew’s side. I’d expect a relatively high-scoring affair after a slightly slow start, with new addition Lucas Zelarayan getting involved.
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Guilherme Torres

Season openers always carry a lot of expectations, but more often than not, matches are not so great as anticipated as teams are still in preseason mode and aren’t close to their best physical and technical forms. Crew fans, however, have every right to be excited as the club not only made significant signings but also performed very well during its preseason.

This match is a tricky one to predict as it’s unclear if NYCFC will come to Columbus with the best they have or if they will already rotate players as the team is currently involved with the CONCACAF Champions League. One way or the other, they should be a tough opponents, but I can see the Crew starting the season on the right foot at home.
Columbus Crew SC 1 New York City FC 0

Thomas Costello

Week 1 poses as early of a test as a team can get, when the Crew face the powder blues of New York City Football Club. New York played in the CONCACAF Champions League twice in the past seven days, beating San Carlos 6-3 on aggregate. They played a “home” game at Red Bull Arena on Wednesday that saw them field a team of 11 regular starters from 2019. I do not see this as an advantage for the Crew. Columbus is coming into the season with a starting 11 that potentially includes three new players in Vito Wormgoor, Darlington Nagbe and record signing Lucas Zelarayan. The source of almost all of the Crew’s 2019 offense, Pedro Santos, will be moved from the No. 10 role to the wing too. On top of that, Milton Valenzuela also makes his return to MLS league play after not seeing a competitive match since Oct. 28, 2018.

I can see the Crew stumbling against a talented group of players who have already played competitive matches. It will depend on the lineup that New York puts out. If they bring the same lineup used in CONCACAF, it could spell trouble for a team that is looking to incorporate new talent. If they give some guys a rest, and continue the trend that a good number of MLS clubs take of focusing on the Champions League, the Crew has a strong chance of getting three points.
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Dave Hageman

Conventional wisdom holds that the first few MLS matches of the season are a crapshoot. Teams are still trying to implement new playing philosophies, integrate new players and shake off the preseason rust. Conventional wisdom also holds that these are typically defensive affairs as it’s easier to solidify a backline in preseason while the offensive side takes a few games to gel. I’m not sure that will be true of Crew-NYCFC, though.

Columbus returns two starters to its backline from last year (three if we’re counting Milton Valenzuela, whose ACL tear kept him out all of last year) but it remains to be seen how the new center back pairing of Jonathan Mensah and Vito Wormgoor (which is Dutch for “Wormgoor”) will fair. It literally remains to be seen because MLS, in its infinite wisdom, blocked me from watching any preseason games so I’m relying on match reports, highlights and the wisdom of Twitter (if there is such a thing) for my preseason evaluations. By all accounts, the Goldfinch’s defense has been up to the task while the offense has been a work in progress. Hopefully that progress was evident in the Crew’s 4-1 thrashing of the Houston Dynamo in the charmingly named 2020 Visit Tucson Sun Cup.

City, for their part, have already played two meaningful matches in the CONCACAF Champions League, seeing off Costa Rican side AD San Carlos 6-3 on aggregate behind a hat trick from Heber in the first leg. I look for this matchup to feature goals but, unfortunately, I think City come out on top.
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Patrick Murphy

After the disappointment that was the 2019 season, the Crew players and coaches are chomping at the bit to get on the field for 2020. The Black & Gold want to prove that last season was a fluke due to injuries and a poor fit and this season is more what Columbus will be under new ownership/management.

The Crew will have a good first test with New York City FC coming to MAPFRE Stadium. City finished last year first in the East and has a lot of the same talent returning. Columbus will fit in a number of new pieces on Sunday, but those pieces are expected to be upgrades.

I think the Black & Gold benefit from New York’s midweek CONCACAF Champions League play and face a weakened lineup. While that didn’t result in a win to open last year, it will this time around.
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Thomas Babcock

Finally, the Black & Gold’s 2020 season is upon us and up first is NYCFC. Columbus has made improvements in almost every part of the squad and I think this has been apparent with their undefeated record this preseason. However, NYCFC presents a strong challenge to begin the season. I watched both legs of their Round of 16 CONCACAF Champions League matchup with San Carlos and they looked dominate, winning both and finishing 6-3 on aggregate. NYCFC played a 4-5-1 in both matches and will look to control the midfield with their numerical superiority, which showed as they had over 66 percent possession in both legs of their tie. Given the offensive firepower of both teams, this game should feature goals from both sides, but defensively I give the advantage to the Black & Gold and have them starting this season with a victory.
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Collin Johnson

The Crew opens up at home with very high expectations after a splashy offseason and impressive preseason. Opponent NYCFC has similarly high expectations after grabbing first in the East in 2019 and bringing nearly the entire roster back. Columbus should be able to run out a first-choice lineup against an NYCFC team made up of multiple second-choice options following a full-strength lineup in Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League match. The Black & Gold take most of the first half to work out their butterflies but settle in for a season-opening win against the Eastern Conference favorites.
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Jimmy Lentz

One advantage for Columbus Crew SC in the 2020 season opener against NYCFC – in addition to the excitement of new players, a new jersey sponsor, and a forthcoming state-of-the-art training facility – is the vantage point of how last season started under Caleb Porter. A disappointing 1-1 draw at home against a reserve-heavy New York Red Bulls to open 2019 at home turned out to be quite prescient for the rest of the season.

For the 2020 season home opener at MAPFRE Stadium against the formidable NYCFC, both clubs will likely score some goals. And while Crew SC will play well, so will NYCFC.
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Nick Hudak

Another season opener, another New York team matched up against the Black & Gold. While we don’t have much to go on for either side in terms of regular season MLS games, both have been taking care of business in the matchups leading up to the 2020 MLS opener. NYCFC looked superb against Costa Rican side San Carlos in CONCACAF Champions League and the Crew looked dominant against Houston Dynamo with their projected matchday starters in the Sun Cup.

I don’t have much to add except that I’m not sure which way this game will go as season openers are normally toss-ups. I do know that the fans at MAPFRE Stadium will come on Sunday with noise and that NYCFC’s all-time regular season record in Columbus (1-1-3) is nothing special. I see the most likely result being a draw in an exciting match.
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Drew Niccum

The Crew is gearing up for a successful season and should look to impress in its first competitive game of 2020. The Crew has had mixed results in home openers the last few seasons, but is poised to secure a win. With NYCFC playing midweek in CCL action and squad rotation expected, the Crew should be at a decent advantage.

Look for the Crew to score early and take control of the match, assuming the game plan is similar to the one from preseason. Goals on either side of halftime should secure the match, although I’m not sure the defense will keep the clean sheet. The Crew will get the good start they need for a strong campaign.
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Patrick Guldan

As a measuring stick, this is a game a playoff-caliber version of the Columbus Crew should win. The talent is there and they are playing at home against a team that played midweek. A very good Crew team gets three points. It’s not clear that this is a very good team yet. Caleb Porter says the new pieces are plug and play, but fluidity takes time in real-game situations. There will be flashes of that on Sunday, but not often enough as the new look Black & Gold tie a very good New York City FC team.
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Adam Miller

The Crew kick off 2020 against NYCFC in what looks to be a fascinating tactical matchup. Both teams look set to compete in 2020 and this one should be no different.

Both sides have made plenty of changes this off season and will be poised to get off to a good start in the 2020 regular season. The game will be decided by how well the Crew will be able to press NYCFC. As we have seen in preseason, the Crew has looked to press high up the field and cause havoc in the opposition’s defensive third. This matches up perfectly with NYCFC’s patient, possession-based attack. If the Crew is able to create turnovers, they will have plenty of success in this one. Conversely, if they struggle, it may be a long afternoon in Central Ohio.

In the end, the Crew has the advantage of playing at home as well as being able to see NYCFC play in two competitive CONCACAF Champions League games. These factors will help the Crew to prevail in a great early season contest.
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What’s your prediction for this game? Let us know in the comment section below.