Preview: New York Red Bulls v Columbus Crew SC

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by MARK FISHKIN

Despite suffering the worst loss of the season last Friday, the New York Red Bulls miraculously still have their Shield dreams intact after results across the league.

Saturday night at Red Bull Arena, New York will tussle with a Columbus Crew team knowing that a loss to the Eastern contender will knock the Red Bulls out of first place.  Playing without defensive centerpiece Matt Miazga, can New York hold off Golden Boot leader Kei Kamara (22G/8A) and grab three critical points at home?


 

Match Information:

Saturday, October 3rd at Red Bull Arena, 7:00p ET kickoff

TV/Streaming: MSG/MSG GO (Optimum subscribers)

Audio: http://www.newyorkredbulls.com/matchday/radio

Referee: Alan Kelly

Record, GF/GA, Division and League Position, Recent Form:

New York, 48 points from 29 matches, 51 GF/37 GA, 1st in the East, t-2nd in MLS, WWLWL

Columbus, 47 points from 31 matches, 50 GF/51 GA, t-2nd in the East, t-4th in MLS, WLWWL


New York’s front line vs. the Crew defense

Bradley Wright-Phillips vs. Waylon Francis, Tyson Wahl, Michael Parkhurst and Harrison Afful (and Steve Clark)

BWP nearly tied the Orlando match at two before halftime, hitting the right post. New York’s scoring leader (14G/7A) hasn’t scored in three matches. The Crew’s 51 goals allowed is tied for third-worst in MLS behind only Orlando and Toronto. Francis (6A) has only a single assist since late July.  Wahl (2A) is an 11-year MLS vet who’s on his fifth club. He’s started ten of Columbus’ last 11 matches. Parkhurt has played in 63 of the Crew’s 65 matches since his return to the league before the 2014 season.  Afful (1A) is a Ghanaian summer signing who joined Columbus from the Tunisian league. Steve Clark has only posted 4 shutouts to date this season, half of his 2014 output. His GAA has jumped from 1.23 last season to 1.64 this year. New York has scored three times against Columbus in two matches in 2015.

Advantage: New York


 

Columbus’ attack vs. the Red Bulls’ defense:

Kei Kamara vs. Kemar Lawrence, Ronald Zubar, Damien Perrinelle, and Connor Lade (and Luis Robles)

If for Toronto’s atomic Giovinco, Kei Kamara would be a shoe-in for MLS MVP this season. Not only does the Sierra Leonean lead the league with 22 goals, not a single one has come from the penalty spot.

Kamara comes into Red Bull Arena red hot, with four goals in his last three matches, and has an outside chance of matching BWP’s record-tying single-season league mark. After shutting out Portland on the road, not many fans predicted Orlando’s attack would produce five goals on the Eastern leaders. When Young Matt Miazga was away with at the U20 World Cup, New York sputtered to a 0-4-1 record in his absence. Given the Olympic Qualifying tournament and the two-match suspension that Miazga must endure as a result of his yellow and red cards against Orlando, New York won’t have him in the lineup until the season’s final match, at Chicago. In his spot will be Ronald Zubar, who has played all of 355 minutes this season due to injuries. New York has lost the last two matches in which the Frenchman has played at least a half. Damien Perrinelle followed up his goal in Portland with an own goal against Orlando, and was caught a number of times by the Lions’ counterattack. Lawrence (4A) has collected three assists in his last six games, and Connor Lade may sit in favor of Sal ZIzzo. On Seeing Red this week, Luis Robles said that Cyle Larin, who racked up a hat trick against the longtime New York keeper last Friday, has his Rookie of the Year vote.

Slight Advantage: Columbus


 

The Midfields:

Mike Grella, Dax McCarty, Sasha Kljestan, Felipe and Lloyd Sam vs. Justin Meram, Tony Tchani, Frederico Higuain, Mohammed Saeid and Ethan Finlay

New York will once again roll out its signature starting five midfielders. Mike Grella is without a point in two matches, his longest streak since late May. Dax McCarty picked up his first goal of the season on a flying header last Friday, and the Central Florida native nearly evened the score before halftime.  Kljestan has two goals and four assists in his last six matches. Felipe made his shortest appearance of the season (54 min) before giving away to Gonzalo Veron last time out. Lloyd Sam’s shift against Orlando was the 100th of his New York career in all competitions. Columbus’ midfield maestro is still Higuain (7G/8A), though the Argentinean’s goal scoring is off the season due to Kamara’s proficiency and the development of Ethan Finlay (9G/13A), who has nearly doubled his assist total this season. Finlay scored both goals in the Crew’s win over New York on July 4th. Meram (4G/5A) is an Iraqi International born in Michigan.  With Will Trapp away with the US pre-Olympic team, The Crew will turn to Mohammed Saeid, a Swiss defensive midfielder who played the full ninety in both 2015 matches against New York.

Advantage: Even


The Coaches:

With Marsch suspended after last week’s red card, assistant Denis Hamlett will again manage the club, though New York won’t use the head coach’s seat on the bench in deference to their leader. New York’s substitutions this season have become fairly predictable. For Hamlett, the question will simply be when to make them. Tenafly, NJ’s Greg Berhalter has his club poised for a second-straight playoff berth, and with four straight road wins, and a win against the Red Bulls in Columbus, won’t fear New York one bit.

Slight Advantage: Columbus


Intangibles:

Columbus is a decent 5-6-4 on the road, with a minus nine goal differential, though the Crew has won their last four road matches: at DC, Philadelphia, NYC, and Colorado, all by 2-1 scores. A Red Bulls victory would make it four straight years of double-digit wins at Red Bull Arena.  The Crew is undefeated (6-0-3) when leading at half this season.  Columbus has conceded 31 of the clubs 51 goals this season in the second half of matches. The Crew has only scored 17 goals in 15 road matches. New York has only conceded 15 goals at Red Bull Arena this season, and five of them came last week. With the uncertain weather due to Hurricane Joaquin, game-time conditions are anybody’s guess, but as of Friday afternoon, one report showed overcast skies and 53 degrees at kickoff. The weather may keep fans from turning out for this crucial match. Metro/Red Bulls icon Mike Petke will be honored on the field before kickoff.

Advantage: New York


Prediction:

It’s hard to imagine a Miazga-less backline keeping Kamara and Finlay off the board, so if New York is going to win, they’re going to have to make the match a shootout, which is possible given the Crew’s shaky defense.  I think goals from BWP, Grella, and Veron will offset a brace from Kamara, pushing the Red Bulls closer to home field for the Eastern playoffs. New York wins, 3-2.