Homecoming: No extra motivation needed for Crew SC for semifinal opener

Like the Houston-Portland series in the Western Conference, the Eastern semifinal series between New York City FC and Columbus that kicks off Tuesday (ESPN, MLS Live, 8 p.m.) at MAPFRE Stadium features teams with no trouble scoring goals against each other.

The five meetings in the past two seasons have averaged exactly five goals per game. Just nine days ago, they shared four goals in Queens, and back in late April NYCFC came away from MAPFRE Stadium with a 3-2 win.

But that was then, before Crew SC rolled through the final 10 games of the season unbeaten and prior to owner Anthony Precourt’s admission he’s been flirting with Austin while also snubbing efforts by local business leaders to keep the team in Columbus.

Regardless of the specifics, safe to say Crew SC is a cause célèbre for fans around the league, though head coach Gregg Berhalter says his team doesn’t need any extra motivation after outlasting Atlanta United on penalty kicks in the Knockout Round.

“As a group, we just need to move forward and focus on how we can beat a good New York City team,” Berhalter said. Counterpart Patrick Vieira disagrees. “Of course, there’s no doubt about it. I’m 100 percent sure the coach, the players, they are all going to use it to unite them,” Vieira said. “What is important for us is to focus on what is going on the field and try to play our normal game, but this is the tools Gregg is going to use for the team for sure.”

Crew SC has certainly pulled together down the stretch and Precourt’s shock announcement merely poured more fuel on a fire that was already burning brightly. A great game by keeper Zack Steffen extended the game in Atlanta to extra time and then penalty kicks, during which two more Steffen saves enabled Crew SC to prevail. He also snuffed a Villa penalty kick in stoppage time in the team’s last meeting. The job of monitoring Villa, should he choose to roam more in the middle third, will be that of Trapp and Artur, whose resolute work in the Knockout Round blunted many an Atlanta attack.

When these teams met Oct. 22, both Crew SC goals were set up by Federico Higuain, who notched seven of his career-high 14 assists in the last four regular-season games. NYCFC tends to leave gaps in that zone 20 to 30 yards from goal where Higuain likes to operate and NYCFC midfielder Alexander Ring must be prominent. Ola Kamara is the top scorer with 18 goals. Justin Meram (13 goals) needs to rebound from a tepid display in Atlanta though a terrible offside decision robbed him of a clear opportunity to score.

Emotions will be running hot at MAPFRE Stadium, which Precourt deemed substandard when he bought the team four years ago. MLS owners apparently agree with him regarding the facility and the Columbus market from a business standpoint but on Tuesday they will witness the emotional factor they have left out of their calculations.
1 comment about "Homecoming: No extra motivation needed for Crew SC for semifinal opener".
  1. :: SilverRey ::, October 31, 2017 at 11:53 a.m.

    Ola Kamara is and has been playing - no hamstring injury. Meram on the other hand is battling a foot issue, so he is not at 100% right now (subbed in the 60th last few games). Waylon Francis has been battling a quad issue (Jimenez played left back in Atlanta, subbed by Raitala late in the game). Other than that they are healthy.

    New York is still missing Camargo & Chanot.

    #SaveTheCrew
    and if you haven't yet
    https://www.change.org/p/save-the-crew-tell-don-garber-to-keep-the-crew-in-columbus

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