Sunday afternoon will feature the top two teams in the MLS Next Pro’s Eastern Conference at Lower.com Field. Columbus Crew 2 currently sit at the top of the East, eight points above this week’s opponent New York City FC II. The Black & Gold come into this game following a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Philadelphia Union II last weekend after Stefan Stojanovic scored a wonder goal in stoppage time.
Sunday’s match will provide Crew 2 a rare opportunity this year to bounce back from a defeat. The Black & Gold have lost just three times this season, none coming in back-to-back fashion.
“We will find out next game.” head coach Laurent Courtois said about responding to last week’s loss. “From our side, the technical side, our message was pretty clear: soccer is beautiful. It was a good battle in the second half. What we weren’t happy with was the timidness and shyness of the first half.”
This will be the second time this season that Columbus plays NYCFC II. When two teams met in the middle of May, Crew 2 came away with a 1-0 victory on the road. Forward Jacen Russell-Rowe scored one of his 13 goals, this season, as the Black & Gold played a man down for the final 19 minutes of play.
“When we played them the first time, we thought (NYCFC II) were the best team in the league,” Courtois said. “Not only by identity but also by the personnel they have.”
Sunday afternoon’s match will feature the league's top two goalscorers. Russell-Rowe and the Pidgeon’s John Denis both sit tied in the Golden Boot with 13 goals each. These two attackers will look to take the lead for MLS NEXT Pro’s top goal scorer when they face off against each other.
“Having the first team right next to us is really motivating to see those guys every day and how they train”, Crew 2 forward Noah Fuson said about how this team helps him get to where he wants to be. “Seeing guys like Jacen Russell-Rowe and Mohamed Farsi go and sign first-team contracts. It helps us want to go and get that for ourselves.”
Both the Black & Gold and City could be described as offensive juggernauts. NYCFC is second in the league in goals scored with 42. Columbus sits third with 39 goals scored.
While Crew 2 has been good offensively, it is the best defense in the league that has led to the most success. The Black & Gold have only conceded 15 goals this season, while also leading the league in clean sheets with nine through 17 games played.
The top two teams in the East will kickoff at 5 p.m. ET from Lower.com Field. All MLS Next Pro matches can be streamed live at mlsnextpro.com.