Unbeaten since August, the smoldering Columbus Crew SC return to MAPFRE Stadium on Tuesday, October 31 (8 p.m. ET), to host New York City FC in the first leg of the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinal. The the Black & Gold's first home match since September and will be the MLS Charter Member's fourth match in 16 days — with all four coming against MLS's newest expansion sides (Orlando City SC, NYCFC and Atlanta United in the Knockout Round).
The Halloween special will be the second meeting between the sides since Decision Day's 2-2 draw at Citi Field, and it will have been the fifth meeting of 2017 when the home-and-home two-leg semifinal is over in New York on November 5. The winner will face the winner from Toronto FC and New York Red Bulls' semifinal in the Eastern Conference Final for a chance to raise MLS Cup.
In four matches against City at MAPFRE Stadium since they joined MLS in 2015, Columbus won once, lost once and tied twice. All in all, Crew SC has finished 11 chances into the back of the net when New York City has come to town. In the midst of Crew SC's current 11-match unbeaten run through the end of the regular season and Knockout Round of the playoffs, the Black & Gold has bulged the net 19 times.
While at MAPFRE Stadium in 2017, Columbus has won six of its last seven matches and outscored the opposition 14-5.
👀 Opponent to watch
NYCFC demi-god David Villa singlehandedly secured a point for his side in Decision Day's 2-2 draw. He scored twice in that match and his 22 goals this season are more than double No. 2 on their scoring chars.
Silencing the shifty Spaniard will go a long way toward cementing a Conference Final berth.
Home turf & away goals
Away goals will break any tie that a two-legged playoff may produce. Everyone will know the importance of scoring at home and the extra-importance of nabbing at least one on the road.
According to MLSsoccer.com: "Over 16 Conference Semifinal matchups, there is an even split on who has advanced to the Conference Championship. Eight times the team who advanced from the Knockout Round got past the No. 1 or No. 2 seed while the higher seed has also won eight times. Last year both MLS Cup finalists advanced all the way from the Knockout Round."
In the end, the team with the most total goals over two legs advances. If the teams score an equal number of goals over the course of both matches, the team with the most road goals in the series advances to the next round. If at the end of the 180 minutes the teams are tied on both total goals and away goals, the teams will play two 15-minute extra time periods in which away goals DO NOT count, followed by, if necessary, penalty kicks to determine a winner.