It’s only been two Major League Soccer matches since Columbus Crew SC last won a game, but to Black & Gold fans it feels like much longer. Crew SC has just three wins on the season after making a run to the MLS Cup Final a year ago.
One team they beat on the way to that championship game was the New York Red Bulls, who travel to Columbus and MAPFRE Stadium on Saturday for the first meeting between the two sides in 2016.
After a 1-6 start to the season, the Red Bulls have turned things around well. The New York club is second in the Eastern Conference, sitting on seven wins and 22 points. Despite losing on Wednesday night to Real Salt Lake, the Red Bulls have won seven of the team’s last nine contests.
New York should be more or less at full strength in this game after head coach Jesse Marsch elected to sit multiple regular starters against RSL. Leading scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips (8 goals) and assist man Sacha Kljestan (10) should play from the start, making the Red Bulls that much more challenging for the Black & Gold.
While Columbus will likely have forward Ola Kamara back to near full fitness, the club will still be without central defender Gaston Sauro (PCL tear) and creative midfielder Federico Higuain (sports hernia surgery) and will likely miss winger Cedrick Mabwati who is dealing with malaria. Reserve forward Conor Casey also probably will not feature while continuing to recover from a knee injury.
New York will be without center back Aurelien Collin, who received a controversial red card on Wednesday night. The Red Bulls appealed the decision, but MLS announced the suspension would be upheld.
Through 63 meetings, New York leads the all-time series 28-26-9 but have not been able to take down Crew SC when it matters most, the playoffs. The Red Bulls will look for a 13th all-time regular season win in Columbus in this match.
Keys to the Match
- Defending the frontmen: If Bradley Wright-Phillips has success, the Red Bulls have success. While it’s a small sample size, it appears the Crew SC offense runs through Ola Kamara in front of goal. Which team contains the opposition’s forward better will have a major advantage.
- Kljestan vs. Trapp/Tchani: Sacha Kljestan has four game-winning assists this year already and pulls the strings in the midfield for New York. Can Wil Trapp and Tony Tchani contain him in the middle of the park?
- Wing play: Ethan Finlay and Justin Meram (probably) for Columbus and likely Mike Grella and Lloyd Sam for the Red Bulls will be fun to watch. Who can get the better of the outside to create chances for the strikers?
How to Watch
Date/Time: June 25, 2016/7:30 p.m. EST
Venue: MAPFRE Stadium, Columbus, OH
Television: CW Columbus, TWC SportsChannel
Online: MLS Live
Radio: CD 102.5 (English), La Mega 103.1 (Spanish)
Come back during the match to chat with other fans and Massive Report staff.