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Massive Predictions: Crew vs. Minnesota United

How do we see the Black & Gold performing in the Round of 16

Sporting Kansas City v Minnesota United FC - MLS Is Back Tournament Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Don’t look now but it’s win or go home in the MLS is Back Tournament. After Columbus Crew SC breezed through the group stage of the tournament with three straight wins, the Black & Gold now face Minnesota United in the Round of 16.

United had a productive group stage itself, going 1-0-2 and finishing second in Group D. The Loons now get a date with the hottest team in Major League Soccer with the right to go on to the quarterfinals on the line.

How does the Massive Report staff believe this game will play out? Let’s see what our writers said.

Jimmy Lentz

Gyasi Zardes will likely get a goal (or two) in this match, in part by finding space along the Minnesota United backline between the center backs, patiently waiting for a through ball from Lucas Zelarayan or Pedro Santos. However, one concerning issue from the Crew’s group stage was the last game’s second half performance when Atlanta United upped the offensive intensity through the 94th minute in which Columbus started revealing cracks in its defensive foundation that were prevalent throughout last season.

On that note, the Crew will surely focus particular attention in the beginning on former outside midfielder Ethan Finlay — who scored two goals for Minnesota against the Colorado Rapids in the last match — but for how long? Columbus’ wingbacks need to keep an ever-watchful eye on Finlay, who will probably be a little extra motivated to derail his former team in the knockout round.
Columbus Crew 2 Minnesota United 1

Thomas Costello

Columbus Crew SC has had a great tournament to date, even with a few big injuries in Vito Wormgoor, Eloy Room and Youness Mokhtar. These injuries haven’t had an impact on the results, but the knockout rounds are different. Minnesota United comes in with strong performances but has given away goals. This match will be decided with penalty kicks after a tie in regulation through a Lucas Zelarayan goal. Columbus wins, but it’ll be close.
Columbus Crew 1 Minnesota United 1, Crew win in penalty kicks

Patrick Murphy

I’m uncertain on how to pick this game. While the Crew looked impressive through most of the group stage, I’m thinking we might look back and realize that had more to do with the 2020 New York Red Bulls and Atlanta United teams not being as good as expected. This is not to say I don’t believe the Black & Gold are a good team, I do, but I’m not sure this is the best squad in MLS.

I’ll also be interested to see how much Columbus puts into this game. The Crew accomplished its mission in Orlando with three group stage wins and nine points in the bank for the regular season, but does the team really want to win the MLS is Back Tournament? We’ll find out on Tuesday.

I’ll stay positive and say the Black & Gold come out with a strong lineup and get the W against Minnesota, but I think this is the most interesting test for Columbus to date.
Columbus Crew 2 Minnesota United 1

Adam Miller

Columbus and Minnesota are set to meet in the MLS is Back Round of 16. All signs point to a cagey affair between the Black & Gold and the Loons. Minnesota presents a different challenge, as it looks to be the most direct side the Black & Gold have yet to face. It will be interesting to see if the Crew can limit Minnesota’s attacking options on the counterattack, while still dominating possession. In the end, the Crew has more quality in the attack and is able to pull away with two second half goals and some solid defending.
Columbus Crew 2 Minnesota United 0

Orri Benatar

This will be a tough game but I believe the journey in Florida will continue for the Crew, who will stay in the bubble. The Black & Gold have found defensive chemistry early on and have had success with different backline combinations and goaltenders. While MNUFC presents the toughest challenge to the Crew’s defense, I believe the defensive success will continue on Tuesday. Lucas Zelarayan back in the starting lineup spells trouble for the Loons and with his playmaking ability in the middle, the Crew should keep that unbeaten record alive going to the last eight.
Columbus Crew 2 Minnesota United 0

Drew Niccum

It’s hard for me to see any other scenario besides a Crew victory. I think this Minnesota side has gotten lucky, getting a late win against a 10-man Sporting Kansas City and holding on to draw against the Colorado Rapids. With Ike Opara absent from the backline as well, I think the Crew is going to get some great chances and put in a couple of goals. Minnesota has performed well on the offensive side, but I think the Columbus defense can shut it down, particularly in the case of former Crew player Ethan Finlay. As long as the offense remains potent and Jonathan Mensah continues to hold down the backline, the Crew should have a great chance of advancing. Goals will come from Gyasi Zardes and Pedro Santos.
Columbus Crew 3 Minnesota United 1

Andrew Atkins

This is the hardest match to pick so far in the season for me, as I think either undefeated club has the potential to lock in the win and advance far into the MLS is Back Tournament. However, Columbus Crew head coach Caleb Porter has stated that he looks at the tournament similar to the U.S, Open Cup.

What this could mean for the Crew is the high profile starters such as Gyasi Zardes, Lucas Zelarayan, Milton Valenzuela and Darlington Nagbe could see themselves on the bench to avoid the risk of injury, leaving Columbus without the dynamic attack and stonewall defense that has propelled the club to the top of the Supporters’ Shield standings.

For this reason, I could very well see the Black & Gold suffering their first loss in 2020 to the Loons. That being said, if Porter has a change of heart and we see similar squads and tactics as the group rounds, I don’t know that there are many clubs in MLS that can stop the Crew right now.
Minnesota United 1 Columbus Crew 0

Guilherme Torres

Minnesota is probably the trickiest opponent coming from Group D the Crew could face in the first match of the knockout rounds. Not because Adrian Heath’s team is the strongest of them, but it’s easily the most inconsistent and, therefore, unpredictable.

The Loons are fairly fragile defensively without reigning Defender of the Year, center back Ike Opara, but can be lethal in transition with former Crew winger Ethan Finlay and Trinitarian international Kevin Molino. It will be a match in which the Crew will have the ball, but will need to make good use of it, as has been the case recently, to avoid being caught off guard. Despite the absence of goalkeeper Eloy Room and winger Youness Mokhtar, I see the Crew moving forward on this one.
Columbus Crew 3 Minnesota United 1

Patrick Guldan

There’s not a team playing better than the Crew at the MLS is Back Tournament. The team rolled FC Cincinnati, pushed past New York Red Bulls and eased past Atlanta United, making what was supposed to be a tough group look easy. Minnesota is also undefeated during the tournament. Starting off with a strong showing against Sporting Kansas City, the Loons struggled to two ties and looked uneven offensively. Irreplaceable defensive stalwart Ike Opara is missed, but Michael Boxall and José Aja have been solid. The offense has been spurred by their dynamic and speedy midfield, including a revitalized Ethan Finlay. This is a team still missing a creative spark, however.

The Crew offense looks sharp when Darlington Nagbe is pulling the strings and Lucas Zelarayan can unlock defenses with moments of magic. This is a deep team offensively. Even with Youness Mokhtar out, Luis Diaz and Pedro Santos remain dangerous and Derrick Etienne Jr. shown he can be dangerous. Even with Vito Wormgoor sidelined long term, Aboubakar Keita and Josh Williams have filled in admirably. Perhaps the lone question mark went a long way to getting answered as Andrew Tarbell recorded a solid shutout against Atlanta, although Minnesota may test him more than the Five Stripes punchless offense.

On paper, this is a game that favors the in-form Crew. The games aren’t played on paper, but the Black & Gold are the better team and still win.
Columbus Crew 2 Minnesota United 1

Jay Homan

This is arguably the toughest matchup Columbus Crew SC has faced so far this tournament. Minnesota United is more disciplined and consistent tactically than any of the clubs the Crew faced in the group stage. While Minnesota has had impressive results in this tournament (and the season as a whole) it is not without a little luck. For example, it took a red card and an own goal on behalf of Sporting Kansas City before the Loons were able to squeak out their only win of the tournament with a stoppage time goal. Columbus will likely be fielding a stronger starting lineup than the team put out against Atlanta United in attempts to get an early lead for the fourth match in a row. An early lead that will secure the momentum of the match and lead the Crew to another win.
Columbus Crew 2 Minnesota United 1

David Lewis

Just like in the World Cup, the knockout stage is the best part of any tournament. MLS is Back is no exception. This will be fun, especially since the Loons head coach Adrian Heath poked the bear with his comments about the Black & Gold.

Columbus Crew SC is hungry in this tournament like a bear and will be ready. I don’t see enough from the Loons to give Columbus many issues. Ethan Finlay will want to show his best against his former team but it won’t be enough. Columbus boss the midfield to a win.
Columbus Crew 2 Minnesota United 0

Collin Johnson

The Crew has already accomplished one of its goals for this tournament: take all nine points from the group stage. Now, Columbus has a chance to add some meaningful hardware to the trophy cabinet for the first time since the team hoisted the Eastern Conference championship in 2015.

As a reward for going undefeated in group play, the Black & Gold have a date with a Minnesota United team who also made it through group play without a loss. In his press conference yesterday, Caleb Porter said that Minnesota would be the best team the Crew has played so far in the tournament, and the team is preparing as such. The Loons lack a dynamic offensive presence but do have a strong midfield led by Kevin Molino, who is expected to return to the team on Tuesday. With a full week to rest and study up on its opponent, Columbus has a great chance to grab a win and move to the quarterfinals.
Columbus Crew 2 Minnesota United 1

Derrick Smith

The Crew looks to continue it dominating streak of attacking and outplaying the opponents. This Round of 16 match has a twist though as the Crew looks to neutralize one of its former first team starters in Minnesota United’s Ethan Finley.

Coming off a two-goal performance, the Crew will look to slow down the Loons’ attack and keep another clean sheet.

The Crew’s road to glory ends here, going down on penalties. (Hey someone has to pick against Black & Gold sometimes, right?)
Columbus Crew 1 Minnesota United 1, the Loons win in penalty kicks

Nick Hudak

The knockout stage of the tournament is going to be a different animal than what the Crew has faced since the restart of the season. The competition is getting tougher and the games are getting longer. Tuesday’s matchup against Minnesota United is proof that it won’t get any easier for the Black & Gold.

If the group stage, however, told us anything, it’s that the Crew is built for this tournament. The team has balance, depth and talent that few other sides possess. With that being said, I don’t see how anybody can pick against Columbus, especially considering its consistency from their defense even without Eloy Room.
Columbus Crew 2 Minnesota United 1

How do you see this game playing out? Let us know your score prediction in the comment section below.