While the Columbus Crew sit atop the MLS standings, New York City FC is trying to keep from falling into the basement in the table.
The Crew aim for a fifth straight win Monday night against NYCFC, which will be playing at its new temporary home away from home.
Perhaps it’s a surprise that Columbus (5-0-1) owns a league-best 16 points at the moment. Then again, the Crew have more than held their own while outscoring opponents 12-1 during games that count – noting their shootout loss to Minnesota in the “MLS is Back Tournament” in the round of 16 does not go toward the regular-season standings.
“We have a strong team, and we always find a way to win,” captain Jonathan Mensah told the Crew’s official website. “We’re creating a culture that we do whatever we can to win games.”
Columbus rather easily found its way to beat the Chicago Fire, 3-0 on Thursday night. Gyasi Zardes scored his team-leading fifth goal and assisted Darlington Nagbe’s laser of a goal in the Crew’s return to the regular season in front of an empty stadium at home.
Aside from that knockout round loss in the Florida tournament, the last goal Columbus conceded came during a 1-1 draw at Seattle on March 7.
“I’m really pleased with our defending and the clean sheet (on Thursday), and all this makes me happy,” Crew coach Caleb Porter said.
Lucas Zelarayan (three goals) scored in the 56th minute, and that proved all the Crew needed during a 1-0 home victory over NYCFC (1-5-0) in their 2020 season opener. Columbus, though, is mired in an 0-4-1 road stretch versus City, where it’s failed to score over the last three matches away from home in the series.
However, those meetings were all played at Yankee Stadium. But, due to COVID-19 restrictions and the New York Yankees again playing at the Bronx site, NYCFC will play Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the league’s resumption of the regular season at Red Bull Arena, across the Hudson River in Harrison, N.J.
“We concluded a thorough of potential venues with our first choice always being to play home games within the Five Boroughs, however, due to league COVID-19 protocols, Red Bull Arena was the best choice for us at the time,” NYCFC CEO Brad Sims told the club’s official website.
It was at Red Bull Arena, where City resumed its season with a 1-0 home loss to their Hudson River Derby rivals on Thursday night. With star playmaker Maxi Moralez injured, and uncertain for this contest, NYCFC was not all that aggressive in its attack, at least not after the first 20 minutes.
Not including its two knockout games in the “MLS is Back Tournament,” in which it totaled four goals, City has scored just twice over the six games that have counted this season. With just three points on the campaign, NYCFC sits near the bottom of the overall league standings.
“Everybody, including myself, has to really dig deep and find that strength and that belief and that power that makes you come out to the pitch and bounce back,” said City coach Ronny Deila, whose team has suffered four 1-0 defeats.
“That’s what we’re going to do now on Monday.”