Columbus Crew SC vs. New York City FC | 2017 Conference Semifinal Preview

Columbus Crew SC vs. New York City FC
Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs – Eastern Conference Semifinals, Leg 1
MAPFRE Stadium – Columbus, Ohio
Tuesday, Oct. 31 – 8 pm ET
WATCH: ESPN in the US | TSN1/4/5, TVAS in Canada

How can Columbus follow that up?

Crew SC won an all-time classic playoff matchup at Atlanta United on Thursday, getting a heroic performance from goalkeeper Zack Steffen to shock the Five Stripes in a penalty kick shootout following a scoreless 120 minutes at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in front of the largest playoff crowd in MLS history.

The match had everything, save for a goal: Controversy, what felt like dozens of shots off the post, exciting, entertaining, coordinated attacking soccer and some incredible last-ditch defending.

It also set the stage for what may very well be one of the more emotional matches in club history on Tuesday against NYCFC.

It was revealed last week that Crew owner Anthony Precourt is exploring the option of moving the team to Austin, Texas following the 2018 season. The news fell like a bombshell on Columbus, leaving players and staff with the unenviable task of trying to piece together a playoff run amid the turmoil.

They took an incredible first step in Atlanta. On Tuesday, in the first match at MAPFRE Stadium since the Austin news broke, they’ll have a shot to go even further.

New York City FC will be standing in their way in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinal series. Patrick Vieira’s side finished the regular season as the East’s No. 2 seed, and have plenty of talent on both sides of the field. Headlined in the attack by David Villa, NYCFC are stout through the middle, with goalkeeper Sean Johnson and center midfielders Alex Ring and Yangel Herrera keying a defensive unit that allowed the fifth-fewest goals in the league this year.

NYCFC are talented, but they’re nowhere near as hot as Columbus. Crew SC are unbeaten in their last 11 matches; it’s been nearly three months since their last loss. Gregg Berhalter’s bunch should enter the series with plenty of confidence about how they match up with NYCFC, too. Crew SC drew the Cityzens 2-2 in Queens on Decision Day, getting a second-half equalizer from Josh Williams and a stoppage-time penalty kick save from Steffen to steal a point at Citi Field.

Columbus Crew SC

Suspended: None
Suspended next yellow: D Hector Jimenez, M Artur
International Duty: None
Injury Report: OUT: D Alex Crognale (sports hernia surgery), D Gaston Sauro (left PCL surgery), M Ben Swanson (right ankle surgery)
Projected Starting XI
(4-2-3-1, left to right)
GK: Zack Steffen – Hector Jimenez, Josh Williams, Jonathan Mensah, Harrison Afful – Wil Trapp, Artur – Justin Meram, Federico Higuain, Pedro Santos – Ola Kamara

New York City FC

Suspended: None
Suspended next yellow: None
International Duty: None
Injury Report: OUT: M/F Miguel Camargo (hip fracture), D Maxime Chanot (hernia surgery)
Projected Starting XI
(4-3-3, left to right)
GK: Sean Johnson – Ben Sweat, Alexander Callens, Frederic Brillant, Ethan White – Yangel Herrera, Alex Ring, Maxi Moralez – Rodney Wallace, David Villa, Jack Harrison

All-Time Series

Matches between Crew SC and NYCFC are typically wide open. In the seven previous meetings between the clubs, there have been 32 total goals scored and no shutouts recorded by either side.

Overall: Columbus 2 wins (15 goals) … NYCFC 2 wins (17 goals) … Ties 3
At CLB: Columbus 1 win (10 goals) … NYCFC 1 win (10 goals) … Ties 2
Referees

Referee: Alan Kelly
Assistant Referees: Matthew Nelson, Brian Dunn
4th Official: Ismail Elfath
​Video Assistant Referee (VAR): Chris Penso