New York City FC are on the road this weekend as they face Columbus Crew at Lower.com Field.
Hi Jacob, thanks so much for speaking with us. How long have you been covering the Crew?
I’ve been covering the team since January 2019, making this my third year covering the club for the Columbus Dispatch.
What’s been your favorite moment covering the team?
There have been some incredibly exciting moments recently. The story of how the fans rallied to get new ownership to keep the club in Columbus and then watched the Crew win MLS Cup at home will forever be unprecedented. The final game at Crew Stadium was unforgettable as well. But the top moment has to be the opening of the new stadium, Lower.com Field. Just to be a part of that historic day was a treasure.
Looking at the 2021 season so far for Columbus, it's been largely defined by tied games, why do you think that is?
The bulk of those draws have either come on the road or when the Crew has been forced to rotate during Champions League or when the Crew has had several injuries affecting depth. The offense hasn’t completely clicked yet, but it has hardly had big offseason signing Kevin Molino in the lineup. To answer the question, it’s been a bit of all three of those things which has affected continuity.
Last time the two teams met Lucas Zelarayán was undoubtedly the deciding factor. How do you anticipate his role changing in the absence of Gyasi Zardes?
With Zardes out for Gold Cup, likely until Aug. 1, and the lack of a reliable striker option right now, I think Zelarayan will play higher up the field and not track back as much defensively like he did against FC Cincinnati. That was the first game he scored since that sensational performance against NYCFC, but he has continued to play well. He’ll be expected to do more with Zardes out, but he needs help from wingers Pedro Santos and Alex Matan as well.
From a tactical standpoint, what strengths should Ronny Deila and his team be wary of heading into the game?
Everything the Crew does successfully runs through Darlington Nagbe and Zelarayan in the middle. Without Milton Valenzuela at left back, opponents don’t have to worry as much about Waylon Francis joining the attack at that position, giving opponents the ability to pressure Nagbe and Zelarayan more in the middle to win the ball back.
Are there any weaknesses you think NYCFC can exploit?
The defense has allowed several goals in the opening 20 minutes of games this year, and the back line will not be at full strength because of a red card against FC Cincinnati, Saad Abdul-Salaam will likely start at right back in place of Harrison Afful. Center back Vito Wormgoor has struggled in his starts this year as well.
If you were to identify NYCFC's danger-man, who would that be?
It’s got to be Jesus Medina. He was stellar in the first half against the Crew back in May. If NYCFC comes away with a win in Columbus, I expect Medina to play a large role.
And finally, for any fans thinking of making the trip to Columbus in the future, are there any particular attractions you’d suggest they check out?
The best place for food and drinks in the city is the Short North. It’s a fun place to hang out. The most scenic area in the city is the Scioto Mile, which isn’t far from Land Grant Brewing. Their beer garden is a great spot to watch games.