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Preview: New York City at Columbus, 7 PM, MAPFRE Stadium

The Eastern Conference leading Blues take on the defending conference champs Crew SC on YES

MLS: New York City FC at San Jose Earthquakes Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Eastern Conference leaders visit Columbus today. New York City are in first place by a single point, courtesy of a drab draw against San Jose last Friday night. A victory against Crew SC, with its three resulting points, would be precious against an onrushing Toronto FC, who are in second place and playing outstanding soccer at the moment.

Columbus is mired in a nine-game winless streak. For a club that prides itself in tradition and winning - Columbus was the first MLS team ever - this is their longest winless streak in a decade.

Seven points adrift of the playoffs, their season is essentially over. They traded star striker Kei Kamara to the New England Revolution after he verbally torched club legend Federico Higuaín, brought over Ola Kamara (no relation) to replace him, but despite Kamara’s scoring, they simply haven’t gotten in rhythm. Owner Anthony Precourt tried valiantly to acquire more DP-level talent over the secondary window, but failed, reportedly missing out on acquiring USMNT midfielder Alejandro Bedoya to the Philadelphia Union.

Despite their woes, Crew SC only have one loss at home this season. They’ve drawn seven times. The last meeting between the two teams came in Columbus all the way back in April 16. David Villa had a brace, but New York City’s defense - long a weakness - surrendered three goals, including a late winner to Justin Meram.

With playoffs beckoning, a win against a bottom-dwelling team like Columbus is crucial for qualifying and positioning. New York City have an excellent road record this season. While last week’s draw against the Earthquakes might’ve been disappointing to some, Dom Kinnear’s teams traditionally play fantastic, organized defense. They did precisely that against the Blues.

Crew SC are not the Quakes.

This isn’t to slam Columbus manager Gregg Berhalter. Berhalter has done an excellent job in Columbus, leading them to the MLS Cup Final last season, and earning dark-horse consideration as a potential USMNT manager should Jurgen Klinsmann depart the position.

But this is a lost season for the team, and New York City can, should, and must take advantage. Manager Patrick Vieira has demonstrated that kind of ruthlessness throughout this season, and tonight should be no different.

Expect him to play a full strength lineup against the Crew. Expect a victory.