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Red Bulls Bring Big Name Talent to Take on the Crew

The stars will be out Saturday night as the New York Red Bulls head to Columbus Crew Stadium.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

After beginning the season so brightly, the Columbus Crew have dimmed over the last three matches, failing to win as teams have begun to sit back and absorb the Crew's possession game, especially at Columbus Crew Stadium.

This week, the Black and Gold may get a reprieve at home as they welcome in the star studded New York Red Bulls on Dollar Night.

"I don't think New York's going to do that," Crew Head Coach Gregg Berhalter told reporters when asked about this facing this style again.

"I don't think it's in their DNA. I think they're a very attacking orientated team, a very strong team in possession, and it can setup to be a fantastic match if both teams look to play."

There are few teams in the league that possess the talent of the Red Bulls and this allows them to play an open style home or away, something Columbus also wants to do. Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill receive the most recognition, but they are not the only dangerous players for New York.

"There's a lot of quality," Crew defender Michael Parkhurst said of the Red Bulls.

"They've got a lot of good players going forward. You saw [Wednesday night], Miller get the assist. Their wide guys get forward a lot, their outside guys pinch in. I really like [Eric] Alexander as a player, he's all over the place."

In recent games, the New York midfield has been made up of Lloyd Sam, Alexander, and Dax McCarty, three players that would have a much higher profile if they weren't overshadowed by Henry and Cahill.

Columbus' Tony Tchani and Wil Trapp will look to control the center of the park as they have in every game this season in an attempt to neutralize some of the Red Bulls skill.

"The more we have the ball, the less dangerous they're going to be," Parkhurst said. "It's going to be really important that we keep the ball and keep those weapons on the defensive side of the field. If we can keep the ball and keep their outside backs pinned back, it will do us a lot of favors."

This has perhaps been the Crew's biggest strength this year, keeping the ball for 57.8% of the campaign. This would be the best way to neutralize an attack that seems to be rounding into form after a 4-0 win over the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday.

"That was probably one of the strongest performances of the year by any team," Berhalter said of New Yorks' win. "I think it was a comprehensive win.

"The attacking movement was really good in this game and that was something I don't know if they've always had. As a group they're coming together a little bit more. They've been looking good."

The results weren't coming for Henry and the Red Bulls early in the season. New York began the year winless in their opening six matches before a 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Union last week.

On the other side, the Black and Gold have now gone three games without a win, going 0-1-2 over that span. If they're going to return to their winning ways, it means shutting down the Red Bulls' front men.

"Of course Henry's one of the best players in the league," Parkhurst said when asked about defending New York.

"He floats everywhere too so it makes it difficult to defend. Sometimes he's up top, other times he's playing a playmaker, as a number 10 who can get in deep, sometimes he's out wide. He's kind of all over the place and we have to make sure we keep a body on him... If you leave him open, he's able to find the passes that are penetrating and very dangerous."

Then there is Bradley Wright-Phillips, who has scored four goals in the previous two games.

"Wright-Philips is a box player," Parkhurst said. "He does his work in the box, he makes good runs, and he's strong. Close to goal he's definitely someone you have to keep an eye on."

They provide a challenge for Parkhurst and central defensive partner Giancarlo Gonzalez that they have not seen this season. If they are up to the task, the Crew should manage the full three points.

"These home games are really important for us," Parkhurst said. "We've dropped points now two times in a row and we really can't afford to make it a third."

Projected Starting XI

Columbus Crew vs New York Red Bulls - Football tactics and formations