On the back of the news that Columbus Crew SC may be relocated to Austin, Texas at the start of the 2019 MLS season, the club will travel to New York to faceoff against New York City FC. The game will take place at Citi Field, the first time NYCFC has ever hosted a match at the Stadium.
The all-time series between the two clubs couldn't be any tighter. Since NYCFC's expansion season in 2015, each club has won two games and drawn two in the six meetings between the two clubs. David Villa has scored five goals in his previous six meetings with Columbus.
The most recent meeting saw NYCFC leave Columbus with all three points. Jack Harrison took home the Alcatel MLS Player of the Week award following the match in Columbus as he bagged two goals in a 3-2 win. Yangel Herrera also played a big part in the win as he scored his first MLS goal in the 66th minute of that match as well as assisting the eventual Jack Harrison game-winner about ten minutes later.
Jack Harrison's first goal came in the eighth minute when he chipped Columbus goalkeeper, Zack Steffen. That goal was followed by a Columbus goal on either side of the halftime whistle to give Columbus the lead. The first goal was a Federico Higuain volley in the 29th minute which was followed by an Ola Kamara goal in the 49th minute. That is when Yangel Herrera stepped up with a goal and an assist to see NYCFC go home with all three points.
New York City FC: The blue side of New York who suffered from a lengthy injury list in the middle of the season has since reduced that list.
The two injured players are both players who have been out for a lengthy period. First up, Maxime Chanot. The defender had hernia surgery in August and is set to return soon but will not be available on Sunday. The club will be hoping to have Chanot back for the playoffs as he was a mainstay in the backline prior to his injury. The other player missing through injury is Miguel Camargo. The Panamanian picked up a non-displaced hip fracture in the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup over the summer and will miss the remainder of the MLS season.
James Sands, NYCFC's first ever homegrown signing, will also miss the match. The teenager was serving international duty with the U.S. U17s in India at the U17 FIFA World Cup. Unfortunately for him and all other Americans, the team went crashing out with a 4-1 defeat to England on Saturday. James Sands played every minute in the World Cup for USA.
Jack Harrison controversially received his first ever professional red card last weekend vs the New England Revolution. Fortunately for NYCFC, the red card was rescinded and Jack will be available for selection on Decision Day.
Columbus Crew SC: Columbus has also suffered from some lengthy injuries. The club has missed multiple players due to various surgeries.
The first injury news for Columbus was Gaston Sauro. the defender had left PCL surgery prior to the season in December of 2016 and is yet to return. Another player who was forced to miss the season is Ben Swanson, the 20-year-old homegrown had right ankle surgery in the middle of the season and will not return in 2017.
Alex Crognale is another Crew player who was forced to have surgery during the season. The defender featured 17 times including 12 starts before undergoing sports hernia surgery in early October. The defender was originally told he'd miss 6-8 weeks following the surgery.
New York City FC will be hoping to finish in the top two of the Eastern Conference for the second consecutive season. The top two teams in each conference earn a playoff bye in the first round. For NYCFC, it's simple, a win and you finish second and get a bye, any other result and you'll be depending on others.
Columbus can also finish second in the conference despite that looking impossible for a large chunk of the season. Thier route to a bye is tougher than any of the four teams fighting for it though. If they beat NYCFC, they'll move above the team currently sitting in second, however, that does not ensure a bye. They'll still need results elsewhere. They'll need the Chicago Fire to lose in Houston, and Atlanta United FC, who are set to break the MLS attendance record once again, to lose or draw this season's Supporters' Shield winners, Toronto FC.
Chicago would clinch a playoff bye with a win in Houston as well as some help from Columbus. Atlanta United would earn a playoff bye in their inaugural season if Columbus win, and Chicago lose or draw the Houston Dynamo.
NYCFC hope to simplify all of this with a win on Decision Day and get themselves a precious first-round playoff bye.