Ronny Deila says New York City FC need no reminding of Lucas Zelarayan’s set-piece ability ahead of Saturday’s showdown with Columbus Crew.
City led the Crew in the most recent meeting between the sides in May, only for Zelarayan to net a couple of free-kicks in the final 10 minutes to snatch a 2-1 win for his side.
Zelarayan has five direct goal involvements in total this season and Deila has acknowledged the importance of keeping the attacking midfielder quiet at Lower.com Field.
“When he gets on the ball around the box he is a really talented player,” Deila said. “It’s important not to give away silly free-kicks for that reason. “We need to make sure we can cause them problems. But hopefully we are in their half of the field all game so it won’t matter too much!”
New York City have won three and lost two of their five matches since that defeat to Columbus eight weeks ago, placing them sixth in the Eastern Conference.
The Crew are level on points having played a game more, despite a run of three draws in a row and four matches without a win.
Last week’s point against FC Cincinnati came in a game Columbus trailed 2-0 with 10 men, which head coach Caleb Porter believes highlights the character of his squad.
“It says everything about our guys,” he said. “Obviously you can taint the result by saying we were 2-0 down, but it’s an incredible comeback and an incredible result.
“It’s not the draw I’m celebrating but the mentality of my team. I love this team and their attitude.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Columbus Crew – Darlington Nagbe
Nagbe has been his consistent self in midfield this term, with no player in MLS completing more passes (96.4 per cent) among those to have featured for at least 450 minutes.
Indeed, the former United States international has completed at least 90 per cent of his passes in each of the last 18 games in which he has attempted 30 or more.
New York City FC – Ismael Tajouri-Shradi
Deila has already made clear that he will continue rotating his side, but he will be without designated player Talles Magno against the Crew due to a knee injury.
The visitors will need others to provide some creativity, while it is often down to Tajouri-Shradi to convert the chances, having recently scored in four successive games.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Columbus have won their last two matches against New York City FC, including a come-from-behind 2-1 away win in May. Neither team has won three consecutive games against the other in the MLS history of this rivalry.
– The Crew opened Lower.com Field with a 2-2 draw against New England Revolution, making it just the third time the Crew have failed to win in their last 20 home matches (W17 D2 L1 including playoffs). The Crew have not gone consecutive home matches without winning since August 2019.
– New York City lost 2-1 to CF Montreal in their last match, but have not lost consecutive matches since returning from MLS is Back last year. NYCFC have a record of six wins and one draw following losses since the last regular season resumed in August 2020.
– The last team against whom Nagbe completed less than 90 per cent of his passes was NYCFC (88.2 per cent in August 2020).
– New York City FC have scored 10 set-piece goals this season, three more than any other team in MLS. A league-high six of those 10 goals have come off corner kicks.