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Game Preview: Three things NYCFC fans should know about Columbus

The Crew are coming off a comfortable win against DC United

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch
It’s not easy to contain Lucas Zelarayán.
Barbara J. Perenic/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

In advance of New York City FC’s game tomorrow night at Yankee Soccer Stadium against Columbus Crew, Hudson River Blue reached out to Thomas Costello of Massive Report to learn more about New York City’s next opponent.

Hudson River Blue: Who should we look out for on the field?

Thomas Costello: Pedro Santos is a name to watch on Saturday. Santos isn’t new to the Crew or MLS, but in 2022 he switched from a winger role to a fullback. He initially moved to defense last season due to injuries, but he excelled at the position and filled a need. Santos was challenged early by opposing offenses, but he hasn’t broken under the pressure. Instead, Santos is now a top left-back in the league. Not only does he provide pressure on defense but moves the team down the field on offense. Santos stretches the field for the Black & Gold and it’s not getting a lot of attention but he’s performed consistently week in and week out.

HRB: What about the attack—who should we pay attention to in the final third?

TC: In the attack, Lucas Zelarayán is the first person to watch. NYCFC supporters know him well after he scored two free-kick goals last year at Yankee Stadium, but he isn’t all set pieces. The offense runs through him. Zelarayán has a couple of options up front. At forward is Miguel Berry, who made a big splash in 2021 as a super-sub, but he’s underperformed so far this season, scoring twice in 10 matches (nine of those are starts). Derrick Etienne Jr. is the other name to watch. Etienne’s having a career season on the wing, and he’ll contribute with both goals and assists.

HRB: What are the weaknesses in this Crew side that make you nervous?

TC: Finishing chances are what’s making Crew supporters nervous in 2022. The Crew started with nine goals in their first three matches, but cooled off considerably since then. In their last seven games, Columbus has just six goals total, but on the positive side five of them came in the past two matches.

During a four-match stretch where Columbus didn’t score a single goal, the Crew put themselves into good positions to score but their shots were either blocked, or the Black & Gold waited too long. It prompted an interesting post-match response by head coach Caleb Porter that he wanted more strikers with an edge, with references to neck tattoos and words I won’t repeat in this article. That’s turned a corner. But with a team that has an open Designated Player spot, which the Crew are hoping to fill with a striker, who knows how long that will last.