Preview: New York Red Bulls, Columbus Crew – Leg Two

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by DAVE MARTINEZ

Falling in a two goal hole with nary an away score to buoy their hopes, the New York Red Bulls now face the daunting task of returning the favor on Columbus.

That won’t be easy. As displayed last week, the Crew’s attack is every bit as potent and creative as the Red Bulls offense. Moreover, the Columbus defense proved disciplined, keeping New York scoreless and clueless for much of the 90 minute affair.

A raucous sellout crowd awaits at Red Bull Arena. Will the Harrison faithful help sway the scoreline?

Here is what you can expect:


PROJECTED XI:

New York Red Bulls (4-2-3-1): Robles; Zizzo, Zubar, Miazga, Lawrence; McCarty, Felipe; Sam, Kljestan, Grella; BWP

Columbus Crew (4-2-3-1): Clark; Francis, Sauro, Parkhurst, Afful; Tchani, Trapp; Finlay, Higuain, Meram; Kamara

LEAGUE HEAD-TO-HEAD: NYR 28 wins, 99 goals … CLB 26 wins, 77 goals … Ties 9
2015 HEAD-TO-HEAD: NYR 2 wins, 5 goals … CLB 1 win, 4 goals … Ties 0
AT RED BULL ARENA: 10/3: NYR 2, CLB 1 (Sam 12; B Wright-Phillips 21 — Meram 9)
MLS CUP PLAYOFFS: CLB 4 wins, 11 GF … NYR 0 wins, 5 GF … Ties 0.

BATTLE TO WATCH: Kljestan vs. Tchani, Sauro, Parkhurst. The heart of the Crew’s defense will be bolstered by the returning Sauro. As the first line of defense in the final third, Tchani will be tasked to smother playmaker Sacha Kljestan. Like wise, Kljestan will be a pivotal player in the Red Bull offense and will have to lead from the middle if New York are to overcome their two goal deficit.

X-FACTOR: The Rebound. The New York Red Bulls have consistently answered disappointing performances with dominant victories most all season. With Red Bull Arena playing host, New York will have the ability to once again pull off this feat — and perhaps clinch an MLS Cup spot in the process.


WHAT TO EXPECT … 

For the second time this season, the Columbus Crew surprised New York with a taste of their own medicine — a direct, up-the-gut approach in attack that forced the Red Bulls into a defensive shell. That brilliant tactic by Crew boss Greg Berhalter cuts Marsch’s game plan at the knees, taking away the club’s ability to freely move with a high press by putting the Red Bulls on their back foot. Scoring early is also a recipe for disruption, and the Crew did that just :11 seconds into last week’s encounter.

By executing their game plan, Columbus were able to take a very positive result out of the first leg at Mapfre.

The Red Bulls will have to be equally disciplined to shutdown Columbus at Red Bull Arena.

The tenor of the match will depend on the tactics deployed by Columbus. After all, New York is a given; it will be a high press leading the way, with Miazga playing quarterback from the midfield stripe while maintaining the Crew compact in their defensive end. If Berhalter decides to go for that crucial away goal, he will open up the play at Red Bull Arena giving New York a better chance at scoring — but also improving the Crew’s ability to net a crucial away goal. However, with a two goal cushion, it is more likely that Columbus takes a deliberate backseat, attempting to keep the Red Bulls off the board as long as they possibly can while riding that first leg advantage

Like the first leg, scoring first will be crucial and can set the tone for the entire encounter. An early Red Bull goal will force Columbus into an attacking mode. An early goal from the Crew will force New York, then, to take chances and open up the game. And like the first leg, it will be critical for the homeside to come out swinging. New York has little time to waste if they hope to get the outright victory or if they push this into overtime.

In order for the Red Bulls to claw their way back into this one, they will need to achieve one of the most common staples in soccer — winning the midfield. Sam and Grella have to win the battle on the flanks. Kljestan has to be a more overpowering presence and distribution center to stretch the stout Crew defense.  McCarty and Felipe will be tasked to up their workmanship in shutting down the triumvirate of Higuain, Tchani and Trapp.

Easier said than done, of course.

However, New York are no strangers to overcoming deficit after crushing defeats. All season, the Red Bulls have rebounded from devastating performances with resounding victories (6-2 in such encounters). With recent history on their side, there is no reason to rule out the Red Bulls. But it will take a disciplined effort to achieve enough to book their ticket to MLS Cup.

 


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