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Three Semi-Philosophical Questions Ahead of NYCFC vs. Columbus Crew

Is this the last time we will see Mapfre Stadium in an MLS Cup Playoff match? Possibly. In this third installment of NYCFC and the Columbus Crew in 2017, NYCFC will look avenge last year’s disaster on the road against Toronto FC with a good performance tonight.

Tonight’s match, which is set to start at 8:00 p.m. on FS1, will mark the third match between the two sides. In April, NYCFC came back from behind to beat the Crew 3-2 at Mapfre Stadium behind a brace from England youth-international Jack Harrison. It is also worth noting that Sean Okoli started up top for NYCFC as David Villa did not feature in the contest.

Before the third installment of blue versus yellow this season, here are three semi-philosophical questions to dwell on.

Does NYCFC Take it to the Crew?

In the MLS Cup Playoffs, away goals are vastly important. If two teams find themselves tied on aggregate, the number away goals scored will determine the winner. This format may not be the best way to go about deciding who advances, but it is what we MLS followers have to live with.

Since NYCFC hits the road first in this semi-final tie, it is crucial for Patrick Vieira’s men to dictate the tempo and to control the game from the opening whistle. If NYCFC can put pressure on the Crew’s goalkeeping sensation Zack Steffen and grab an early goal, the burden of having to score will shift heavily onto the Crew. NYCFC will also aim to take out the crowd, which will likely be quite energetic and angry given recent events.

If NYCFC sits back and lets the Crew dictate play, the Crew will only grow stronger with every minute. If NYCFC wants to make light work of the Ohio club, then they need to go after it from the opening whistle and try to end the game early.

Does Vieira Stick with His Guns or Try Something New?

Last year, Vieira changed NYCFC’s tactics before their first match against Toronto FC, thus leading to an embarrassing 7-0 defeat on aggregate. In an interview with the media this past Monday, Vieira admitted his mistakes in his inaugural year as manager.

“When we played against Toronto last year, we were a little bit thinking about the second game before thinking about the first game,” Vieira stated. “This one, we are not going to make the same mistakes. We are going to have our game plan, and we are not going to change the way we played since the beginning of the season.”

It is uncertain as to what the starting eleven will be for Vieira. Though given his recent comments, expect to see a regular attack-minded NYCFC line-up. Ronald Matarrita may find his way back into the starting eleven along and rookie Jonathan Lewis as well. As far as injuries are concerned, center-back Maxime Chanot remains out, and defender Ethan White may be out as well after picking up an injury in training.

Will the Playoffs Spark Earlier Results?

Whether it was because of injuries or international breaks, NYCFC is not the team they were at the start of the year according to their recent results. A dip in form is characteristic of some NYCFC forwards including Jack Harrison and Rodney Wallace. However, that is understandable when both players are busy traveling the globe for international team duty. The nine days off from NYCFC’s last match, a 2-2 draw against Columbus, should give Harrison and Wallace a chance to catch their breath.

With the team rested and nearly 100% healthy, NYCFC is in a Jekyll and Hyde situation. On the one hand, a motivated and determined side could show up in Columbus and handily defeat the Crew. On the other hand, NYCFC very well could lack that initial spark at the start of the match, leaving the door wide open for Columbus.

Based on what Vieira learned from last year’s playoff debacle, expect the “Boys in Blue” to come out motivated and determined to put away this tie early.


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