HARRISON, N.J. – The New York Red Bulls not only took the top spot in the Eastern Conference, but also the Supporters’ Shield race in a dominant 2-1 win over Columbus.
Justin Meram put Columbus up just nine minutes into Saturday’s encounter. However, New York answered with a goal from Lloyd Sam and a winner from Bradley Wright-Phillips in the first half, which proved just enough for the Red Bulls to take three points at home.
Columbus challenged New York early, taking a surprising offensive footing against the home side. Harrison Afful surprised the Red Bulls with a cross into the box finding Justin Meram, whose shot deflected off of Damien Perrinelle and floated over Luis Robles to open the scoring.
Two minutes later, New York’s high pressure system overwhelmed Columbus, allowing Lloyd Sam to bury a Sacha Kljestan feed to tie the match. Mike Grella forced Clark into a kick save, but the ensuing rebound left Kljestan with a clear look at Sam for the finish.
Nearly ten minutes later, a poorly delivered clearance from Crew keeper Steve Clark resulted in a quick counter from the Red Bulls. Lade took advantage of acres of space, lifting a ball from the left to Wright-Phillips who headed home the go ahead goal.
Columbus managed several half chances that failed to threaten Robles. New York, however, nearly made it 3-1 after a pretty sequence in the second that led to an open shot by Wright-Phillips which was stopped by Clark.
The Crew’s best chance came in the 75th minute off of a rocket volley from Higuain, forcing Robles into a diving save. Meram followed that with a strong shot from 35 yards out, but Robles punched the opportunity away.
Despite the loss of Matt Miazga and Kemar Lawrence, the Red Bulls held their defensive shape — and held on for the victory.
New York (15-9-6, 51 pts.) are now atop of the Eastern Conference — and the Supporters’ Shield race. They move on to face the Montreal Impact this Wednesday at Red Bull Arena.