Preview: New York Red Bulls at Columbus Crew

(Image, New York Red Bulls website)

(Image, New York Red Bulls website)

The New York Red Bulls hit the road for the seventh time this season as they face a dangerous Columbus Crew side.

Dominic Oduro, Jairo Arrieta and Federico Higuain have formed a lethal trio up top with plenty of speed, creativity and control to test any backline. Former Metrostar Eddie Gaven adds a lethal dimension from the wings, leading the Crew with three assists. Their steady attack has the team tied for second league wide with 12 assists (New York tied for first with 15) and their staunch defense has helped the club achieve a lofty status with the third best goal differential in the league.

“We won last year there but we played them at the right time,” Red Bulls captain Thierry Henry explained. “Having said that, if you remember the game, they had so many opportunities to come back in the second half. We didn’t. With Higuain, Oduro and all those guys, we know they have quality.

“Having said that, it looks like we are better on the road at the moment. Hopefully we can give them a good game but it’s going to be a difficult game and difficult to win. You know how hard it is to win there.”

Through three matches this season, the Crew are undefeated at home (1-0-2) while outscoring opponents 5-2. By contrast, the Red Bulls are 2-3-1 on the road, giving up ten goals while scoring nine. To their credit, those two wins have come in their last two road matches where they outscored their opponents 4-1.

“It’s the right time for us to go there,” Henry said. “We won in DC, we won against Toronto and had a couple of good games at home if you take the Kansas City game away. We are not on a bad run but you know how it is. It’s very fragile. If you go to Columbus and get hammered, you start to ask yourself questions again. You have to go there and play a good game.”

Will they? EOS brings you this weeks preview:

PROJECTED LINEUP (4-4-2): Robles; Barklage, Holgersson, Olave, Miller; Alexander, Juninho, Cahill, Steele; Henry, Espindola

ALL TIME RECORD: Red Bulls 24-23-7 (10-14-3 on the road)

LAST ENCOUNTER: Red Bulls 3-1 Crew at Red Bull Arena (9/15/12)

BATTLE TO WATCH: Thierry Henry v. Chad Marshall. Here is a stat for you; four of Thierry Henry’s 15 goals last season came against the Columbus Crew. The majority of those were scored on the run against Chad Marshall who seems to have no answer for the French striker. Can Marshall contain him? Or will Henry feast on the Columbus backline once more?

X-FACTOR: Federico Higuain. It has been a slow start for the Argentine playmaker. He scored on opening day against Chivas USA but failed to connect until gifted a PK against DC United. If he finds his form against New York, it will be a long day.

OUTCOME:

Physicality, speed and creativity; a lethal trio of weapons if you can put it all together. The Columbus Crew have that. The question is whether they can mesh.

The Red Bulls are traditionally weak against speedy teams and you don’t get much faster than Oduro and company. New York’s backline has fallen apart in the past against young, quick sides – look towards Sporting KC, the Portland Timbers or even San Jose for examples of it. What can be done?

“Being on our toes and dropping early. You don’t want to get in a foot race with certain people,” head coach Mike Petke said. “Noticing that, when there is no pressure on them and they have the chance to put their heads down and put the ball over the top.

“We’ve definitely made strides as a team with the back four over the past three or four games and ya, I’m liking the basics they are doing,” he continued. “There is always room for improvement. We talk about that all the time. We have to be better with the ball at our feet out of the back but as far as defensively, winning three out of four games, I’m happy with it.”

Tim Cahill agrees with the coach and credits the team’s centerback tandem for the success. “Markus and Olave have been fantastic and Roy and Brandon have suited really well and we have the capacity on the bench to come one if anything happens to the back four,” Cahill said. “They have some quick strikers but we have played against some decent teams this year and seemed to cover quite well.”

While awareness will be key, so will discipline. “Watching the games, and while I was playing, I feel like the team goes through periods of doing very well and dominating the game and then being dominated a little bit,” Juninho notes. “We just need to find that consistency of dominating throughout the 90 minutes and not allowing those negative parts.

“It’s unrealistic to expect a team to completely dominate for 90 minutes, but also, there has to be a balance as to predominantly be the ones in possession with the ball and not allow the other teams to try to even come back into it.”

Both team’s know their assignments; it is just a question of who will be able to put it all together come gameday.

PREDICTION: 2-2
Season Record: 3-7
Perfect Predictions: 1