Preview: New York Red Bulls at Columbus Crew

IMAGE, NEW YORK RED BULLS FACEBOOK

BY MARK FISHKIN
Staff Writer

Home cooking tastes great, and after two straight wins at Red Bull Arena, New York hits the road for matches against two of the best clubs this young MLS season.

On Saturday, the Red Bulls visit Columbus, who haven’t won since March 29th and are desperate to get back to their winning ways. The Crew will be rested and will want to prove that their fast start (3 straight wins to start the season) wasn’t a fluke.

New York will give the Crew lots of respect, but carry the knowledge that they’ve won two of the last three matches between the clubs in Ohio.

Match Information:
Saturday, April 23rd at Columbus Crew Stadium, 7:30p ET kickoff, TV: MSG

Record, GF/GA, Final Division and League Position, Recent Form:
Columbus, 11 points from 6 matches, 9 GF/6 GA, t1th in the East, t5th in MLS, WWLDD
New York, 10 points from 8 matches, 12 GF/11 GA, 3rd in the East, 7th in MLS, DDLWW

The Columbus front line vs. the Red Bulls’ defense:

Dom Oduro vs. Roy Miller, Jamison Olave, Armando, and Kosuke Kimura (and Luis Robles). Speedster Oduro has yet to score, and has unleashed only a single shot on goal in five appearances this season. It’s a good thing for Columbus that midfielder Higuain (see below) has been Mister Everything this season. The Crew has only scored twice in its last three matches, none a win. For New York, Wednesday’s shutout masked a sloppy display by the back line. With sharper finishing, Houston could have come out on top midweek, as the Dynamo squandered at least three open opportunities in the New York box. Neither Armando nor Sekagya have soared as Olave’s partner, and Kimura continues to concede opportunities frequently. Roy Miller is the shining light here, and whether his contact with Creavalle on Wednesday was worthy of a red card, the Costa Rican’s offense was a revelation during New York’s two-game homestand. Yes, Houston hadn’t scored in an age, but Columbus has sharper tools to work with, despite Oduro’s slow start.
Slight Advantage: Columbus

New York’s attackers vs. the Crew defense:

Thierry Henry and Bradley Wright-Phillips vs. Waylon Francis, Michael Parkhurst, Giancarlo Gonzalez, and Josh Williams (and Steve Clark). Wednesday night offered a master class by Henry on how to run an offense. His tally lifted him to a tie for second in all-time franchise goals with Clint Mathis at 45. Only Juan Pablo Angel (62) has more. Wright-Phillips was the biggest beneficiary of Henry’s superb play. While the Englishman’s first goal was the product of a great pass and poor defending, BWP’s second, a slashing cut and finish was a thing of beauty. Columbus, allowing only a goal per match, has benefitted from continuity in the back that the Red Bulls surely envy. The Costa Rican Gonzalez, USMNT World Cup hopeful Michael Parkhurst, first-year keeper Clark have played every minute this season for the Crew. Francis and Williams have started every match and each has an assist this season.
Advantage: Even

The Midfields:

Justin Meram, Tony Tchani, Frederico Higuain, Will Trapp, and Hector Jimenez vs. Eric Alexander, Peguy Luyindula, Dax McCarty and Lloyd Sam. Federico Higuain (4g, 2a) is the man that powers the Crew’s offense and is already a candidate for league MVP. The Argentine has scored 44% of Columbus’ goals this season, and McCarty will need to shadow him closely if New York has a chance of coming out on top. Homegrown and US U20 player Will Trapp (2a) has been tremendous for the Crew in his second MLS season. Columbus will be without suspended Bernardo Anor, who drew a straight red in the Crew’s draw v DC, so look for the versatile Justin Meram (1g, 1a) to take his place. Meram’s time has been cut this season from last be the arrival of former LA Galaxy man Jimenez (1g, 2a). Rounding out the Crew’s five-man midfield is former Red Bull Tony Tchani, who’s yet to produce a goal or an assist this season despite starting all six matches. That New York was able to produce four goals against Houston by leveraging the left side of the midfield was a welcome surprise, given Lloyd Sam’s recent exceptional play. Alexander has put together consecutive strong performances on the left. While Luyindula was overshadowed by Henry, BWP, and Miller, the Frenchman was solid in the center on Wednesday.
Slight Advantage: Columbus

The Coaches:

Gregg Berhalter is another in a line of first-year MLS coaches for Mike Petke to battle. Columbus has done a strong job building a roster of young Americans around Higuain and Oduro, and Berhalter has coaxed a decent start out of his new club. Without a win in three matches, though, the Columbus coach needs to motivate his men to protect home field. Petke must feel even more relieved after two straight wins, and his club can make a statement with a win against a strong opponent on the road. Expect few changes, if any, from the lineup from Wednesday’s shutout.
Advantage: New York

Intangibles:

New York is a respectable 13-16-3 all-time at Columbus, and is 2-1-1 in its last four at Crew Stadium. Henry has scored five times against the Crew in his MLS career. The weather report is perfect with partly cloudy skies and a temperature in the mid 60’s at kickoff. Despite new ownership and some refurbishments to Crew Stadium, Columbus’ attendance is down 15% this season, to 13,666 from over sixteen thousand. More reason for new owner Precourt to invest more in reinvigorating the franchise. Advantage: Even

Prediction:

The Red Bulls are going to have to significantly tighten up in the back if New York is going to escape Columbus with points. It was great to see BWP and Henry truly click for the first time on Wednesday, but Sam will have to get more involved in the attack against the Crew’s backline. Can New York blunt Higuain’s impact? That’s the question. I think the Argentine punishes New York, but the Red Bulls’ offense will click as well in an entertaining 2-2 draw.