New York City FC-Crew Preview
The Columbus Crew are marveling at the star power New York City FC is bringing to Ohio for Wednesday night's matchup.
David Villa, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo have earned worldwide respect, but it's Crew star Kei Kamara that is leading MLS in goals.
The sizzling Kamara has five goals in as many games and can add to his total of 17 when he faces a New York City club that is listing Lampard as questionable.
New York City (7-11-6) has drawn headlines for adding top-level European talent in Villa, Lampard and Pirlo. This first-ever matchup with the big-money club is a challenge that small-market Columbus (9-8-7) is eagerly anticipating.
"It's not too often that you have three Champions League winners on one team in MLS. So it's pretty special what they have been able to acquire," coach Gregg Berhalter told the Crew's official website.
The star trio may not be on the field together. Lampard sat out Thursday's 3-1 victory over D.C. United with a quad strain. The English star will travel on this trip that includes Sunday's much-anticipated matchup at Los Angeles.
The visitors are focusing on containing Kamara, whose goal total is one more than Toronto FC superstar Sebastian Giovinco and three more than Villa for the league lead. Kamara is third in the league with 45 shots on goal with Villa second at 49.
"We need to limit his time and space on the ball," NYC defender RJ Allen said. "We have to always have someone up tight on him and keep his back to the goal."
Columbus has not played since Kamara scored twice to rally the club from a goal down for a 2-1 victory at Colorado on Aug. 8. Defender Waylon Francis and midfielder Mohammed Saeid were suspended for that contest and are eligible now to return.
Ethan Finlay is third in the league with 12 assists for the Crew, who are 3-0-2 in their last five home games.
Columbus is in third place in the Eastern Conference with 34 points - seven ahead of eighth-place NYCFC. New York City is a point back of sixth-place Montreal for the final playoff spot.
"I expect New York City to get into the playoffs, I would guess," Berhalter said. "They are going to turn it on at the end of the year."
Both coaches have lineup decisions to make with games this weekend against West powerhouses, with the Crew hosting Sporting Kansas City on Saturday.
How NYCFC coach Jason Kreis approaches this contest will be interesting with the match against the Galaxy looming. He started Kwadwo Poku in Lampard's place against United, and the youngster responded with a goal and an assist. Poku has a team-high seven assists.
"In the second half, Poku was again involved in a lot of really good stuff," Kreis said. "For me, it was important to see him play well again, it was important to see him last through 90 minutes."
Villa has five goals and no assists on the road compared to nine and six at home. He has one goal in eight road games in the United States.