The last match between the New York Red Bulls and Columbus Crew SC ended 2-1 in New York's favor. The Black & Gold were disappointed with the team's performance in that match, losing the first game of the season at MAPFRE Stadium.
Early in the year, New York climbed to the top of the Eastern Conference with a seven match unbeaten run, but then went a slide. Since that point, the Red Bulls have turned things around, winning two league matches in a row and advancing to the quarterfinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Head coach Jesse Marsch has recently made some changes to get his attack going. He moved last year's league-leading goal scorer, Bradley Wright-Phillips, out to the left wing and inserted 18-year old forward Anatole Abang into the starting lineup and it has paid dividends in recent weeks.
The Black & Gold are not unbeaten in its last three league matches after a 1-1 draw with the LA Galaxy, a 2-1 win over the New England Revolution and an away tie with Real Salt Lake last Saturday. A win in this game would propel Crew SC over the Red Bulls in the standings and potentially as high as second in the East.
To get an idea of what to expect from New York, Massive Report talked to Once a Metro's Managing Editor, Jason Iapicco.
Questions for Once a Metro
Massive Report: The last time Crew SC fans saw the Red Bulls, the team was in the middle of an unbeaten run that stretched over the first seven games. Since then, things haven't gone as well, but appear to be getting better. What's gone on in New York to create that slump and get the team out of it?
Once a Metro: The dip in form can be attributed to a two main things. First, the league has generally figured out how to beat the Red Bulls' high press system. If a team can string together a few passes, the Red Bulls center backs gets left to handle things as the fullbacks like to join the attack. Felipe Martins also moves up leaving Dax McCarty to float just ahead of the backline, but he can get lost trying to protect the wings. The system leaves the Red Bulls vulnerable, and Matt Miazga off with the US U-20s just highlighted the issue even more. The other issue has been the offense. Until they beat New York City FC this past Sunday, the team had never scored more than 2 goals in a MLS match. This can generally be attributed to how Bradley Wright-Phillips has been used (see answer to question 2) and no other players really stepping up to score.
MR: Bradley Wright-Phillips couldn't stop scoring last year, but hasn't found that form in 2015 (although six goals and four assists in 16 games isn't bad). What's different about him? What does his move out wide mean for the Red Bulls?
OaM: I alluded to this in question 1. The main reason Wright-Phillips has seen a dip in form is because he's not being used the same way he was in 2014. Mike Petke basically told him to stand in the box, wait for the ball, and take a shot. Now Jesse Marsch is asking him to sit a little deeper and be a little more of a playmaker. It's easy to spot if you look for it as he's generally been running behind the midfield in attack this year instead of being the point man. In addition, when he has been in the box to receive a pass, he's generally gotten poor service. He's not a tall guy so you can't expect him to get on headers and low passes have not been there as much with Lloyd Sam cutting into the box more this year.
MR: This game will feature two American goalkeepers who have found their form since returning to MLS. Fans of the Black & Gold know how important Steve Clark is to the team, but share a little bit about Luis Robles. Since coming over in 2012, what has he meant for New York?
OaM: When Ryan Meara went down with an injury in 2012, the Red Bulls outlook was uncertain. Meara was a draft pick that dazzled early and earned his spot. When Luis Robles came in, no one thought he would be the starter when Meara got healthy. Now it's 3 seasons later, we have a Supporter's Shield and an Eastern Conference Final appearance in our pocket, and that's in no small part to Robles. He has been a rock for this team since coming in, helping to solidify a position that was in flux for the first few years of the Red Bull Arena era. The only thing that would make fans happy would be seeing him earn a call-up to the U.S. National Team, but we know that won't happen with the current crop of national GKs.
Check back to Massive Report tomorrow to see our answers to Once a Metro's questions.