Preview: New York Red Bulls v. Columbus Crew SC

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by MARK FISHKIN

Remarkably, after this season of slow starts and blown leads, of scoring category leaders and impressive unbeaten streaks, the New York Red Bulls have first place in the Eastern Conference in their sights.

With wins in the the club’s last two matches, New York will capture the East for the third time in four seasons.  First up is Columbus Crew SC, just eliminated from the playoff race.

With nothing to play for, will the Crew put up a fight, or just roll over for the Red Bulls?


Match Information

Sunday, October 16th at Red Bull Arena. 3pm ET kickoff

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

Red Bulls Radio: TuneIn App and www.newyorkredbulls.com/matchday/radio

Referee: Robert Sibiga

Record: GF/GA, Division & League Position, Current League Form

New York: 51 points from 32 gms, 56GF/42GA, t-1st in the East, t-3rd in MLS, WDDWW

Columbus: 36 points from 32 gms, 47GF/51GA, 8th in the East, 16th in MLS, WWLWD


Probable Starters

New York

NYvCLB

Columbus

CLBvNY

Note: Columbus’ starters reflect the Crew SC side that played Thursday night in Chicago. Now officially eliminated from playoff contention, Columbus’ lineup on Sunday may look radically different.


The New York attack vs. the Crew Defense

Bradley Wright-Phillips vs. Hector Jiminez, Nicoli Naess, Michael Parkhurst, Chad Barson, and Steve Clark

Bradley Wright-Phillips (21G/5A) is locked in a fierce battle with NYC’s David Villa (21G/3A) for the MLS Golden Boot.  BWP has five goals in his last nine matches against the Crew. The Columbus defense has conceded five goals over it’s last six matches, posting two clean sheets while going 3-1-1. Hector Jimenez (1A) played 77 minutes Thursday night in Bridgeview before getting subbed out for veteran Corey Ashe.  Nicoli Naess (2A) joined the Crew from Norweigan club Staebek in July and has started Columbus’ last 11 matches. Michael Parkhurst (1A) added to his team’s misery this season by scoring an own goal for the Fire this week. Chad Barson, a Columbus Homegrown, has seen his minutes drop precipitously over the course of his four seasons with the Crew SC. This year Barson has only logged 326 minutes. Crew SC keeper Steve Clark has played every minute this season, and matched his career-high shutout total of eight, but his club has failed to deliver him victories in this disappointing campaign for Columbus.

Advantage: New York 


The Columbus forward vs. the Red Bulls back line

Adam Jahn vs. Kemar Lawrence, Aurelien Collin, Damien Perrinelle, Chris Duvall, and Luis Robles

Adam Jahn, who took advantage of poor Roy Miller in that epic 2013 collapse at San Jose, was traded to Crew SC this past July. Jahn has only started three times and played in 21 matches over the last two MLS seasons, but in a bid for more time in 2017, scored both goals against the Fire on Thursday. New York has posted three clean sheets over their last six matches.  Kemar Lawrence played in the Reggae Boys 4-2 win at Guyana during the international break.  Aurelien Collin has gone the full 90 in each of New York’s seven matches. Damien Perrienelle continues to start for Ronald Zubar, who is nearing full fitness after hernia surgery. Chris Duvall has made a career-high 23 appearances in 2016, and has started the Red Bulls’ last eight league games. Luis Robles has a chance to match his personal mark for shutouts in a season (11) with one more clean sheet.

Advantage: New York


The Midfields

Mike Grella, Dax McCarty, Sacha Kljestan, Felipe, and Alex Muyl vs. Justin Meram, Mohammed Saeid, Dilly Duka, Will Trapp, and Ethan Finlay

With Daniel Royer still dealing with a hamstring injury, Mike Grella gets the start on the left. Grella hasn’t scored since June 19th vs. Seattle.  Dax McCarty is coming off a “Man of the Match” performance against the Union after racking up a goal and two assists. Kljestan has returned from another stint with the US National team where he surely locked up the starting attacking midfield role for the November qualifiers. Felipe (5G/7A) is having his best statistical season since 2013 when he was with Montreal. Alex Muyl picked up his 5th assist of the season in Toronto on September 18th. For Columbus, Justin Meram’s 11 assists this season has more than doubled his previous MLS high. Mohammed Saeid is in terrific form, with all of his 2016 assists (5) coming in the Crew SC’s last six matches. Montville, NJ’s Dilly Duka has been playing in the center of Columbus’ midfield with Frederico Higuain out with an injury. Former Akron Zip and Crew homegrown Will Trapp (1A) his somehow in his fourth season in the league. Ethan Finlay’s production has dropped precipitously from last season (6G/8A vs. 12G/13A), a big reason for the Crew’s poor campaign.

Advantage: New York


The Coaches

Jesse Marsch has his team on the verge of winning the conference for the second straight season: a massive achievement considering the club’s poor start and tendencies to drop leads on the road.  Despite New York’s impressive unbeaten run, Marsch has the Red Bulls only focused on the opponent directly ahead of them. Gregg Berhalter got the best of Marsch in last season’s Eastern Conference Finals, but won’t have the opportunity to match the feat this season. Berhalter’s decision to send Kei Kamara to New England in the spring damaged the Crew’s chances of repeating as Eastern Conference champion.

Advantage: New York


Intangibles

New  York dropped two points in Columbus this June in the clubs’ only other 2016 match when Ola Kamara scored in the 93rd minute to even the score at 1. The Red Bulls are 12-2-2 at Red Bull Arena this season, while Crew SC is only 2-9-4 on the road. The home team has won four of the last five meetings between the teams, including last season’s playoffs. New York is only 17-12-5 against the Crew at home since 1996. Neither club has scored more than two goals in the series over the last six matches. The weather will be perfect, with clear skies and highs in the upper 60s. Will the South Ward sing as one?

Advantage: New York


Prediction:

Teams that have nothing to play for can be extremely tricky. Either they can go through the motions or play with abandon. Young players given chances to play and hoping to make an impact for next season can make a massive difference. Still, with the top spot in the MLS East in sight (New York can win the East on Sunday with a victory, a loss by NYC and a draw by TFC), the Red Bulls won’t disappoint, scoring early and often in a comfortable 3-1 victory.