The Columbus Crew returns to action this Saturday night to take on New York City FC at Red Bull Arena. Yes, you read that correctly, this game is taking place in Harrison, New Jersey due to a conflict of schedules between NYCFC and the New York Yankees.
Regardless, the Crew needs to get back on track after a very dismal and disappointing defeat to the New England Revolution last Sunday. which followed a loss to Toronto FC three days prior. The road has been a challenging place for the Black & Gold as they have not won a true road game in over a year. Needless to say, a strong showing and three points would be a great return from this match.
Let’s take a look at what to expect from NYCFC and what the Crew can do to win this match.
New York City FC at a Glance:
Record:2-1-2, 8 points
League Form: D-D-W-W-L
Leading Scorer: Jesús Medina, Valentin Castellanos (4)
Assist Leader: Anton Tinnerholm (2)
Player to Watch: Valentin Castellanos
With Maxi Morales likely out due to injury, the NYCFC attack will flow through Castellanos on Saturday. This won’t be anything new though, as Castellanos has scored 22 goals in 68 games since joining New York City permanently in February of 2019. Crew fans might remember his dramatic equalizer in the summer of 2019, which exemplified the misery that Columbus fans endured that year.
The 22-year-old Argentine attacker is one of the most talked-about young players in Major League Soccer and is usually the subject of transfer talk during the open windows as he has had suitors from both Europe and South America.
Castellanos is a tricky attacker and is adept in 1 v. 1 situations. In addition to this, he possesses a great finishing ability and a flair for the dramatic, which often finds him on his opposition’s scouting reports. The Black & Gold will have an eye on Castellanos at all times and will need to successfully defend him for the entirety of the game to ensure three points.
How New York City FC play:
Ronny Deila has quickly established a playing style and identity in his first year as the head coach in The Big Apple. The Pigeons have an incredibly similar playing style to the Crew with a huge focus on possession and creating numerical advantages throughout the field. In addition to this, NYCFC will flood defenders to the ball upon losing possession in order to maintain dominance of the possession battle and is also very good in attacking transition, looking to attack quickly whenever possible.
These traits make City incredibly hard to play against and will no doubt be similar to how Columbus looks to play on Saturday. Whoever is able to dominate these shared areas of interest will greatly increase their odds of leaving Red Bull Arena with a win.
How the Crew can win:
While far from a must-win game for the Black & Gold, three points on the road here would certainly put the Crew back on track quicker than expected in the 2021 campaign. To do this, there are certain areas the Black & Gold can focus on to make sure the odds are in their favor Saturday night.
Firstly, Columbus needs to look to dominate possession against NYCFC. Since having the majority of possession is important for both sides, whichever team is able to secure more of the ball is going to have a distinct upper hand in this game.
Secondly, the Black & Gold needs to be very sharp on defensive set pieces. The Pigeons have scored four goals already this year off of set pieces and will look to do the same against the Crew. On top of New York City’s prowess in this area, set piece defending has been a notable weakness for Columbus so far this year. If the Black & Gold are to win this game, they will have to limit NYCFC’s opportunities in this facet.
Lastly, the Crew needs to score. The Black & Gold have three goals in MLS play and two of those were D.C. United own goals. The other one was a wonderful freekick from Lucas Zelarayan. While the Black & Gold showed their attacking prowess in the CONCACAF Champions League, Columbus is yet to score from the run of play in MLS competition and really hasn’t been too dangerous. Obviously, it’s going to be an issue long term if the Crew can’t score goals and there’s no time like the present to fix this problem. City averages two goals per game for, so the Black & Gold will likely need to score to keep up. If they are able to find the back of the net, that will clearly bode well for success on Saturday night.