Preview: New York Red Bulls v Columbus Crew

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by MARK FISHKIN
Staff Writer

New York is in the playoffs for the eleventh time in twelve seasons, but Red Bulls fans want more, given the club’s typical Eastern Conference Semifinals flameouts.

Playoff positioning is far from decided, though, and the club will benefit from an eighth straight home win in its quest to avoid the dreaded play-in game.  Sunday’s opponent still needs one point to clinch the playoffs, and the Crew (7-3-1 in its last ten) is playing as well as New York down the stretch.

Sunday may be Thierry Henry’s final home match.  He’s not telling.  If the Red Bulls win, they’ll most likely be another one.


 

Match Information:

Sunday, October 19th at Red Bull Arena, 3:00p ET kickoff, TV: MSG

Referee: Jose Carlos Rivera

Record, GF/GA, Division and League Position, Recent Form:
New York, 47 points from 32 matches, 52GF/467GA, 4th in the East, 8th in MLS, DWLWW
Columbus, 46 points from 32 matches, 47GF/40GA, 5th in the East, 9th in MLS, DWWLW


 

New York’s front line vs. the Crew defense:

Bradley Wright-Phillips vs. Benardo Anor, Tyson Wahl, Michael Parkhurst, and Hector Jimenez (and Steve Clark).
BWP stuck a fork in his two-match scoring drought with the opening goal last week, lifting him to 25 goals on the season, two away from tying the all-time single-season mark. The Columbus defense has conceded two goals in each of its last two matches, but shut out Montreal and New England before that.  New York will benefit from the continued suspension of Crew wingback Waylon Francis, whose six assists are tied for the club lead. One-time USMNT defender Michael Parkhurt is the veteran presence in the back, but the former Rev has yet to pick up a point this season.  Anor (5G/1A) shifted from midfield to take Francis’ spot at left back last week and may again on Sunday.  Jimenez (1G/5A) did the same on the right. Wahl has appeared in only 16 matches for the Crew this season. Former Tippeligean keeper Clark has posted 8 shutouts on the season, but has conceded five goals to New York in two matches this year.

Advantage: New York


Columbus’ attackers vs. the Red Bulls’ defense:

Frederico Higuain vs. Roy Miller, Jamison Olave, Armando, and Richard Eckersley (and Luis Robles).

Higuain’s (11G/6A) return from suspension will lift the Crew.  The Argentinian is the entire focus on the Columbus attack, and leads the club in Shots as well as Shots on Goal.  New York will be happy to have Roy Miller back from international duty, shifting Armando from the wing back to the center.  The Spaniard will start in case Armando Sekagya’s knock keeps him out of Sunday’s match. Eckersley has played quite well in his recent appearances on the right, despite his near howler in the second half last week that drew a tirade from Dax McCarty. Luis Robles has conceded only three goals in New York’ s last five matches at Red Bull Arena.

Advantage: Even


 

The Midfields:

Thierry Henry, Eric Alexander, Peguy Luyindula, Dax McCarty, and Lloyd Sam v Justin Meram, Tony Tchani, Ben Speas, Will Trapp, and Ethan Finlay.

With both squads playing a 4-2-3-1, the middle of the field will be a crowded place on Sunday.  Luyindula returns to the lineup to drive New York’s attack. McCarty has found his best form of the season during this homestand.  Dax has been everywhere, from scoring goals to cleaning up glaring mistakes by Armando and Eckersley.  Alexander continues to play well as the second pivot in defensive midfield, and Sam continues to drive toward the net, creating opportunities for Henry and BWP.  Oyongo is available off the bench.  The Crew midfield boasts some of the best Americans in the league. Finlay (10G/5A) and Meram (8G/4A) are dangerous from anywhere on the field, can go to goal, and are constantly looking to create for Higuain. Trapp (1G/3A) is a legitimate USMNT prospect (yes, if he moves to Europe, Jurgen) and former Red Bull Tchani (5A) has started all but one match for the Crew this season.

Slight Advantage: New York


 

The Coaches:

Mike Petke worked through a slow start to the season and survived the September death march to reach the playoffs for the second straight year. Petke knows that just making the playoffs isn’t enough, though, and has his team focused on avoiding the play-in match.  With wins the next two Sundays, that’s just what New York will do.  Gregg Berhalter has managed his first season coaching in MLS quite well, with his club on the verge of Columbus’ first playoff berth since 2011. Berhalter has turned the Crew into the successful model of an MLS franchise, mixing American talent with international skill.  Like New York, Columbus has gotten hot late, another mark of a successful team in this league.

Advantage: Even


Intangibles:

These two clubs are at a near dead heat after nearly 19 seasons of MLS competition. New York is currently 28-29-9 all-time against Columbus, and is only 15-11-5 at home in the series. New York has won seven straight matches at home and is 8-0-2 in the club’s last ten matches at Red Bull Arena.  The Red Bulls have outscored Columbus 5-2 in the two matches between the teams this season.  The Crew haven’t won in New York since May of 2010. Thierry Henry has six goals against the Crew in his MLS career. Wright-Phillips has a pair.  The Red Bulls can currently finish second, third, fourth, or fifth in the East. With New England’s win last night, New York would need to win out and have the Revs lose to TFC at home to reach second place.  The weather will be fall-like on Sunday, with highs only in the mid-fifties and sunny skies.  The crowd could be a large one, with the Robles bobblehead giveaway driving interest.

Advantage: New York


Prediction:
There’s no doubting that Red Bull Arena has become a fortress once again.  Unlike the previous two matches against also-rans Houston and Toronto, Columbus is a quality side that can make some noise in the playoffs.  This match is a de-facto playoff match, with the winner likely hosting the play-in match.  The game will be intense from the opening kick, and the Crew’s quality will shine through.  I see goals from BWP, Sam, and two from Higuain in a lively 2-2 draw, keeping New York in fourth place for one more week.

  • Andrew Bissonette

    There’s no way Columbus grabs even a point from this match. 2-0 Red Bulls.

    • LOL

      LOL. WRONG

  • Been wrong before, and surely will be wrong again.

    Thanks for reading, LOL, if that is your real name.