Preview: New York Red Bulls vs. Columbus Crew

IMAGE, NEW YORK RED BULLS FACEBOOK

By MARK FISHKIN
Staff Writer

The Red Bulls kick off the second half of their 2014 season against an opponent in the exact same position.  

The Columbus Crew sport an identical 4-5-8 record as New York, and both teams have an identical goal differential: zero.  Both teams are desperate for a win, but more so the Crew, which have won only once since March 24.  

Columbus is a team that scores few goals (19 in 17 games) but is extremely stingy on defense (19 allowed). What will happen when two desperate teams clash on Saturday night at Red Bull Arena?

Match information:
Saturday, July 12th at Red Bull Arena. 7pm ET Kickoff. TV: MSG+

Referee: Ted Unkel

Record, GF/GA, DIvision and League Position, Current Form
New York, 20 points from 17 matches, 26 GF/26 GA, t5th in the East/t12th in MLS, LDWDD
Columbus, 20 points from 17 matches, 19 GF/19 GA, t5th in the East/t12th in MLS, LDDDD

The Crew attackers vs the New York back line

Frederico Higuain and Jairo Arrieta vs. Ambroise Oyongo, Matt Miazga, Jamison Olave, and Chris Duvall (and Luis Robles).

It’s no surprise that Higuain powers Columbus.  Still coming back from a hamstring injury suffered on June 4th, the Argentine’s six goals and five assists tops the Crew in both categories.  Higuain will look to shade to Miazga’s side to prey on the Red Bull defender’s lack of experience.  Arrieta (3G) plays the willing foil, pulling defenders to him and away from the Columbus star.  New York’s kiddie core back line (sorry, Olave) did enough to earn a victory last week in Houston, before suffering the poor handball call which led to the tying penalty kick.  Oyongo had a highlight-reel moment on poor Andrew Driver before picking up his second assist in as many matches.  If Olave and Miazga push Higuain to pass rather than shoot, New York will do well, but Columbus’ diagonal runs into the box cause the centerbacks problems. With his next win, Robles will move all alone into third place in all-time New York wins (24) behind only Tim Howard (42) and Tony Meola (55).  
Advantage: Columbus.

The Red Bulls’ front line versus the Columbus defense

Theirry Henry and Bradley Wright-Phillips versus Michael Parkhurst, Josh Williams, Giancarlo Gonzalez, and Waylon Francis (and Steve Clark).

He scores with his head and he scores with his feet. Wright-Phillips’ two terrific tallies last week increased his MLS-leading goal total to 14.  Converting amazing feeds from Erik Alexander and Ambroise Oyongo, BWP is single-handedly destroying opposing defenses.  Henry’s next goal will lift him into second place on the all-time New York scoring list behind only Juan Pablo Angel.  The Crew defense has been a very tough nut to crack this season.  First-year MLS keeper Clark has played every minute, and boasts the 4th best GAA in the league (1.12).  Michael Parkhurst, despite his USMNT snub by Jurgen Klinsmann, has been masterful in his return to MLS.  Giancarlo Gonzalez played a massive role in getting his Costa Rican side to the World Cup Quarterfinals in Brazil. Francis and Williams each have an assist on the season.
Advantage: Even

The Midfields

Erik Alexander, Dax McCarty, Tim Cahill and Lloyd Sam versus Bernando Anor, Will Trapp, Tony Tchani, and Hector Jimenez.

The Red Bulls will take the field without Jonny Steele as cover as the Northern Irishman has left the club.  With Cahill returning to the starting lineup, Peguy Luyindula, who filled in admirably for the Australian at the World Cup, returns to the bench.  Alexander (1G, 5A) delivered a perfect ball to BWP to open the scoring last week in Houston.  McCarty continues to be a question mark, but if he can’t start, Sekagya will continue to fill in.  Lloyd Sam will surely be looking for Cahill’s head from the right side.  For Columbus, Jimenez (1G, 3A) has been impressive in his first year with the Crew after three in LA with the Galaxy.  Anor (2G) scored against New York in last August’s two-nil win by the Crew in Columbus.  Former Red Bull Tchani has started every match for the Crew this season, and despite not picking up a point, has been superb in nullifying opposing attacks. Will Trapp, like New York’s Connor Lade, has been selected for the first MLS Homegrown Match, to be played on All-Star Weekend in Portland.
Slight Advantage: New York

The Coaches

Mike Petke noted this week that the job security he feels he’s had since capturing last season’s Supporter’s  Shield has led him to start three unproven young players on defense.  While he can’t control which players the front office has given him, Petke has figured out which have the most value, and given them time on the field.  Gregg Berhalter knows his first season as an MLS coach is about to come off the rails.  While his team is one of the better ones defensively, his in ability to coax more goals out of his lineup despite having a gifted player like Higuain is baffling.  While Saturday isn’t a must-win for him, one win in fourteen matches is pretty grim.
Advantage: New York

Intangibles

Red Bull Arena has hardly been a fortress this season (2-2-3), and Columbus plays quite well when visiting (11-14-5 all-time at New York).  Bradley Wright-Phillips will look to extend his current two-match scoring streak on Saturday. The Englishman already has a two-match streak and a four-match scoring streak this season.  Will Higuain be distracted as his brother goes for Argentina’s first World Cup title since 1986 less than 24 hours after the MLS kickoff? The weather report looks perfect, with a forecast of 79 degrees, sunny skies, and zero threat of rain at kickoff.  Ticket sales should be decent, with good weather and hopefully a bit of a World Cup bump. 
Advantage: Even, given Columbus’ strong record in New York

Prediction:

New York will have to cut down on the conceding-first if they want to get a result against a solid defensive team like the Crew. The Red Bulls have yet to win when their opponent has scored first (0-4-6) this season.  Still, with a healthy Cahill, a hopefully healthy McCarty, and continued strong play from the young back line, New York has a good shot to get the second half started in the right direction.  Given the two clubs are even on points and goal differential, Saturday is a great opportunity to push further up the standing in the East.  I think they’ll handle the assignment well in a 2-1 victory. 

  • Anthony J. Merced

    This game feels like a 9 pointer to me. A win and they begin showing some distance from the “below the playoff line” teams.