New York City FC was stunned last year by the Columbus Crew, who beat New York to earn their first win of the 2016 season after starting 0-3-2. Crew struggled for the remainder of the season and finished next to last in the East while NYCFC reached its first postseason.
But things won’t get easier for City this time around as they travel to Ohio Saturday to take on a revitalized Columbus squad.
After missing the postseason last year for the first time since 2013, Columbus revamped its roster, adding depth and youth in the process. This year’s additions include five defenders and three midfielders. Still, forward Ola Kamara and midfielder Justin Meram lead the way with four goals apiece after staying with the team through a turbulent 2016.
The result after eight games is encouraging. With 13 points, the Crew (4-3-1) is seated second in the East, three points ahead of NYCFC (3-3-1, 10 points). With an improved roster, Columbus looks more dynamic and ranks tied for fifth in the league with 11 goals through eight games.
Meanwhile, City continues to be uneven on the pitch. David Villa provided another beauty of a goal last week against Orlando City, while 20-year-old Jack Harrison looks like a star in the making. However, New York’s 11-game home unbeaten streak was snapped by Orlando as injuries began to take their toll.
Head coach Patrick Vieira will likely try to retool his lineup for the second straight game. With Ronald Matarrita out with a high ankle sprain, his replacement Rodney Wallace was outclassed by Orlando’s Cyle Larin.
“He scored two good goals in the box that could have easily been prevented,” Harrison admitted last week. But if its defensive strategy fails to change against Columbus, New York will likely struggle again.
Locked in fourth place in the East, City is approaching an important stretch of games in May, including two meetings with high-scoring Atlanta United.