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Crew 2 looks for revenge vs. Rochester New York FC in MLS NEXT Pro playoffs

The Black & Gold only lost once at home in 2022. It was to their playoff opponents.

Sam Fahmi - Massive Report

Columbus Crew 2 takes on Rochester New York FC to begin the MLS NEXT Pro playoffs on Saturday afternoon. With 55 points in the regular season, Crew 2 not only topped the Eastern Conference but also finished top of the overall standings ahead of St. Louis CITY2, who earned 49 points, giving the Black & Gold the No. 1 seed in the postseason. Columbus has not lost since July 31 when Philadelphia Union II pulled ahead at the death. Crew 2 comes into this match with confidence after defeating FC Cincinnati 2 9-0 the last time out.

Rochester New York FC is one of three teams that beat the Black & Gold in regulation this season and is the only team to have done it in Columbus. RNYFC is also the only team Crew 2 failed to score against, losing 4-0 at Historic Crew Stadium in late May before a 0-0 game in Rochester a month later. MLS NEXT Pro Golden Boot winner Jacen Russell-Rowe did not play in either game for Crew 2 against Rochester but is expected to feature in this playoff match.

“We know, at home, the result that happened even though it was a game that we could have handled way better,” MLS NEXT Pro Coach of the Year Laurent Courtois said when asked about how the team mentality is going into the match against Rochester. “In the away game we were simply just not ourselves. So, we are aware, we have no excuse.”

In talking about how Rochester, Courtois mentioned, “They are one of the most direct, if not the most direct team in the league, in terms of putting the ball into their opponent’s half and try to deal with second balls. And straight from their goalkeeper. We know and we think we have a couple of options to manage that and still play our game.”

Courtois also mentioned how the Black & Gold have practiced more penalty kicks in preparation for the MLS NEXT Pro playoffs. Columbus lost to Rochester on penalties in the away match earlier in the season. Patrick Schulte, who was named the league’s Goalkeeper of the Year, said that Crew 2 will enter this game with a chip on its shoulder but have prepared no differently than they would another team.

The Black & Gold preferred a 5-2-3 or a 3-4-3 formation throughout this initial season that utilizes wing backs that push into the attack allowing the two wingers to play more inverted. The formation often overwhelms the flanks of the opponent and gives the attackers an advantage. With the solid center backs, these formations have worked well while not giving away too many transition goals. Columbus will need to bolster its midfield numbers to win second balls by either having the wingers drop in or inverting the wing backs when Rochester has possession at the back.

Russell-Rowe will make his first appearance against RNYFC in this match and the Crew 2 faithful will hope he avenges the Black & Gold's only home loss of the season. Columbus has home-field advantage for every match this postseason, including if the team qualifies for the final. With not much to compete with, Crew 2 hopes for a large crowd for the team’s first postseason match in team history. The game will take place at Historic Crew Stadium at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday.