An early weekend off gave Columbus Crew SC a chance to refocus and work out any early season kinks. The Black and Gold return to field and MAPFRE Stadium Saturday night (7:30 p.m. E.T.) to take on the New York Red Bulls.
Columbus enters the game with a 1-1-0 record on the season. They opened the campaign at the Houston Dynamo, where they controlled the match but were unable to finish several second half chances. The Dynamo had a remarkable performance from goalkeeper Tyler Deric, who made six saves to preserve the shutout, including two huge stops in the second half.
Crew SC came home the following weekend and defeated rivals Toronto FC 2-0 for their first win over the year. The game was not without controversy as TFC defender Justin Morrow was issued a red card before halftime when the score remained 0-0.
The Red Bulls enter the match undefeated on the season. They drew with the Sporting Kansas City on the road during MLS' opening weekend. They played the final 19 minutes of the match up a man, but were unable to come away with a winner.
Last week at home, New York got their first win of the season, 2-0 over D.C. United. Last year's MLS Golden Boot winner, Bradley Wright-Phillips, scored his first goal of the season and then provided the assist on the second goal, scored by Lloyd Sam.
To get a more in depth look at the two teams ahead of the game, Jason and I exchanged questions.
Questions for Once A Metro
Massive Report: The obvious difference between New York this year and last is the departure of Thierry Henry, but Jesse Marsch took over as head coach as well. First, how do fans feel about Marsch stepping in for Mike Petke and what are the differences between the teams under the two head coaches?
Once A Metro: Fans are more mad about Petke being fired than Marsch coming in. At the town hall in January, people were saying they were sorry for Marsch being put in this position. So far the difference is the style of play. Marsch seems to have sold the players on a high pressure system. The D.C. United match is the best example of this. The 3 man midfield group of Dax McCarty, Sacha Kljestan, and Felipe Martins pressured so well that D.C. gave up a lot of possession, even leading to the counter attack where Lloyd Sam scored. You also see Bradley Wright-Phillips dropping back into the midfield to play as a distributor on top of being a goal scorer. He would probably have three assists already if Felipe Martins had put away his chances in the first two matches.
MR: The Red Bulls conceded 50 goals a year ago, tied for the most of teams to make the playoffs. What changes have been made defensively to try and shut things down in the back?
OAM: A high pressure system in the midfield has been started to help protect the back line. Marsch has also trusted youngster Chris Duvall on the right of the back line, and he hasn't been burned through two games. Aside from that it's hard to see what changes exactly have been made. The defensive play by the midfield has shielded the defense for a big part of the first two games.
MR: I'm a big fan of both Sacha Kljestan and Lloyd Sam this year. How are these two attacking-minded players working in Marsch's offense and how are they working with striker Bradley Wright-Phillips?
OAM: Sacha Kljestan is still adjusting to life back in MLS. He has had a minimal impact on the offense, but he has been taking on a lot of the free/corner kick responsibilities. Lloyd Sam (along with BWP) has had a big impact in the first two games. Marsch's system calls for Sam to cut inside more than stay out on the wing like he did under Petke. This movement has seemed to baffle Sporting Kansas City and D.C. as they didn't really have an answer for him.
Questions for Massive Report
Once A Metro: Crew SC will be missing two of their starters in Justin Meram and Waylon Francis who are off on international duty. What can fans expect to see on Saturday to compensate for their absence?
Massive Report: Both players will be missed on Saturday. Meram scored Columbus' opening goal of the season two weeks ago and Francis has played all 180 minutes this year at left back. In their place will likely be Icelandic international Kristinn Steindorsson at left midfield and former Colorado Rapids left back Chris Klute.
Steindorsson started the season opener at left wing for the Black and Gold, as Meram was suspended to start the year, and did well. He does not possess the one v. one ability as Meram, or the power to shoot from long range, but Steindorsson is good in possession and appears to have a good understanding with his teammates. The winger likes to get into the box and had the best chance for Crew SC against the Houston Dynamo.
Klute is a bit of a mystery. Two years ago he was tipped to be the next U.S. left back after a breakout season with the Rapids, but last year he dealt with injuries and was unable to live up to that standard. He couldn't lock down a starting spot at either outside back position in the preseason and was a liability defensively at time.
Both players have demonstrated an ability and knack to get forward and cause problems for the opposition, but if the Red Bulls focus their attack down the right side, which seems likely, they could find success going forward down that side.
OAM: The Crew got Kei Kamara this year, and it seems like he's off to a quick start. How is he adjusting thus far?
MR: Although it didn't seem good at the time, the best thing that happened for this team was Kamara signing last October but being unavailable to play. The Black and Gold would have loved to have the big striker for the playoffs a year ago, but an extra couple of months plus all offseason in Columbus meant he got used to the system and his teammates.
I was curious to see how Kamara would respond to being the lone striker that head coach Gregg Berhalter likes to deploy, but so far, he has done well. Although he didn't find the net against the Dynamo, Kamara was dangerous and scored in the second match of the season.
Not only has he added a threat in front of goal, but Kamara's a big body who can interchange with his teammates. Crew SC had big strikers a year ago in Aaron Schoenfeld and Adam Bedell, but neither worked as well in the possession-based system. Kamara's experience playing out side seems to have given him an advantage there, as well as his scoring touch.
OAM: Will Trapp has attracted a lot of attention from the US, earning a call up for the latest U-23 camp. News is that he will appear against the Red Bulls then almost immediately fly off to join the U-23s. Is his pending travel going to affect his game?
MR: As I said above, it will be a race to fitness for Trapp. The original thought was just as you say, play this game then meet up with the U-23s, but if the injury persists, the midfielder may remain out of action for both teams.
If he is indeed out, new signing Mohammed Saeid would likely be the replacement. The Swede filled in for the suspended Tchani in the last match and seems the likely choice for Trapp as well.
Assuming he is good to go on Saturday, I don't believe the pending travel would impact him. Although only 22, Trapp's mentality is that of a much older player. He should have no issue focusing on one game before quickly switching attention to another team and a different type of competition.