A week ago, we witnessed the return to action of Major League Soccer clubs following the international break. Columbus Crew SC fans watched a dull match where their side had one shot on goal in a 0-0 draw with the Montreal Impact.
To give the Black & Gold credit, it was a makeshift lineup after Federico Higuain, Cedrick Mabwati, and Gaston Sauro were all ruled out of the contest due to various injuries and forward Ola Kamara was not fit enough to play from the start. Crew SC fans will hope for more from their side Saturday night when the New York Red Bulls visit MAPFRE Stadium.
After a slow start to the year, the Red Bulls have climbed back up to the club’s familiar spot near the top of the Eastern Conference. Before Saturday’s 2-1 road loss to Real Salt Lake, where head coach Jesse Marsch rested most of his usual starters, it had been over a month and five matches since New York did not take home a full three points.
While the Black & Gold are still missing key players, the likely return of Ola Kamara up top could help provide the missing chemistry to make this a more entertaining contest. But can Crew SC capture all three points? Let’s see what our experts think.
HEALTH. FORM. Two words that describe this game. Columbus Crew SC are short on healthy bodies, and the New York Red Bulls are in MAJOR form right now. The Red Bulls would probably like to avenge last year's playoff exit at the hands of Crew SC too. Honestly, I'm just looking forward to the fireworks. You know. The ones after the game.
New York Red Bulls 3 Columbus Crew SC 1
Remember back in the first month of the season when we were wondering what was wrong with the Eastern Conference finalists? Well, one figured it out and one is still trying. This weekend, I'd put my money on the one that figured it out. New York's midweek loss was with five starters on the bench, and it still dominated for 45 minutes. Now those starters are fresh. This would be a major confidence builder for Crew SC, but being short handed will do it no favors. Who will score for Columbus against a well-organized Red Bull defense?
New York Red Bulls 2 Columbus Crew SC 0
This could well end up one of those "boy... that was ugly" nights where the Crew take a beating. The stars are kind of pointing that way. RBNY are in fantastic form; they look like a real contender. The Black & Gold, on the other hand, vaguely resemble a triage unit. So it's not too difficult to imagine this being one of those nights where they get played off the park, fans groan, the coach says "what can you do?" and we all try to move on quickly. Ugly.
Or, it could be the other kind of ugly. The kind of ugly we saw last weekend, in another match we (or at least most of us) expected the Crew to get beaten quite badly in. But they didn't. They instead brought a gritty defensive performance that held the Impact in check. It was gutsy, even. But make no mistake, it was ugly. There wasn't a lot of attacking soccer played, and almost none of it was pretty. But the Crew were happy with it, as they should be. They got a result that, all things considered, they probably weren't expected to get. They played ugly, but it worked.
So which ugly will be on display Saturday night? While I hope that it will be the "gritty" side of ugly, it's just too difficult to ignore the form RBNY are in, and all the weapons they have.
New York Red Bull 3 Columbus Crew SC 1
I won't pretend like I've watched much Red Bulls soccer this year. I have watched Crew SC play without Higuain, and it's not good. Columbus are in danger of morphing into a sideways-backward passing team with no real plan going forward. It's hard to win without a plan.
New York Red Bull 2 Columbus Crew SC 0
Two things that Crew SC have going for them in this game, anything can happen in MLS and New York just played in Salt Lake City on Wednesday. The Red Bulls will be tired and will have to rotate the squad add to that Aurélien Collin got a late red card and RBNY is going to not look like the world beaters they have recently. Now Columbus will be missing Federico Higuain and that is a big loss, but it will be lessened by the return of a fit Ola Kamara. Columbus has enough to scrape by as they get the Red Bulls at the right time.
Columbus Crew SC 2 New York Red Bulls 1
It's hard to place much stock in a midweek New York Red Bulls loss to Real Salt Lake since they were very obviously trying to rest some of their star talent by using them as substitutes. Now granted, the winning goal was scored late with Sacha Kljestan and Bradley Wright-Phillips in, but Western Conference matches mean less than what we get Saturday night. If Tyson Wahl and Michael Parkhurst can perform as exceptionally as they did against Montreal last week, we could be in for a very exciting and close match. Crew SC personnel know they let an opportunity get away from them last week with the scoreless draw and I think they come out motivated to make a statement. Ola Kamara finds goal, Harrison Afful continues to threaten from the flank and Justin Meram has another creative performance.
Columbus Crew SC 2 New York Red Bulls 1
I’ve been pretty optimistic about Crew SC results this year, predicting wins or at least ties when many others did not. I’ve been wrong rather frequently as the Black & Gold continue to struggle. I know New York played on Wednesday and lost, but that shouldn’t impact this match much at all. This isn’t the same Columbus team that schemed the Red Bulls off the field last year in the East Finals and I see the result being indicative of it. Maybe after the match we’ll all say they just have their eye on Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup match.
New York Red Bulls 2 Columbus Crew SC 1