Last week, Columbus Crew SC ended the unbeaten streak of yet another team at MAPFRE Stadium. The Black & Gold were able to claim a 2-1 victory against Toronto FC. It was a gritty performance that saw Columbus start rather slow, but make the necessary tactical adjustments to insure victory.
The Red Bulls welcome Crew SC this week on the heels of an abrasive affair which saw a 2-0 win against D.C. United a week ago. This was a chippy and downright unappealing match with a lot of starts and stops with five total cards issued to both squads. New York remained steadfast, getting on the board first in the 46th minute. Alex Muyl headed home a beautiful corner kick from Sacha Kljestan beating Bill Hamid on the back post. The Red Bulls then found the score sheet again in the 62nd minute when Bradley Wright-Phillips sent one past Hamid. That performance was good for New York’s first win in a month.
The Red Bulls remain unbeaten at home this season. Can Crew SC add some variety to its act and end another streak? Let’s take a look at what we can expect to see on Saturday night in Harrison.
Ever since he started his career in Major League Soccer, the 32 year-old striker can be best summarized using one word: prolific. Perhaps he picked up some tricks-of-the-trade starting alongside Arsenal legend Thierry Henry in 2014 but Wright-Phillips needs to be taken seriously every time he steps on the pitch.
He comes into this game with three goals in seven appearances for New York this season. A recent tactical shift from head coach Jesse Marsch allows Sacha Kljestan to play more of a traditional No. 10 role and this bodes well for BWP as he looks to recapture the magic of 2016, a season that saw him score 24 goals and be a catalyst for New York in-route to a playoff birth.
The U.S. international has been great for the Red Bulls since coming over prior to the 2015 season with production increasing each year since his return. He once again is garnering attention at the international level after being shutout by former manager Jurgen Klinsmann. As New York moves on from the days of Dax McCarty and Lloyd Sam, the team is relying heavily on the leadership of Kljestan.
This has become particularly evident as the Red Bulls have begun playing younger players from their Academy system. The likes Alex Muyl and Derrick Etienne Jr. are seeing consistent minutes under the watchful eye of Marsch, relying on Kljestan to be his eyes and ears on the pitch.
In these times of change, Robles remains a constant in New York. He is an extremely durable and a gifted shot stopper who hasn’t missed a start since his very first one four years ago. Last year, Robles eclipsed the 100 save mark for the third time in his MLS career.
The goalkeeper commands a very talented backline that generally don’t allow attackers to get behind them. Robles is one of those ‘keepers that becomes progressively more difficult to beat as the match goes on.
Sal Zizzo and Kemar Lawrence are two of the more dynamic wingback pairings you will see in Major League Soccer. They are the perfect blend of aggressive with just a hint of finesse. Those are the types of players the Red Bulls need; like Crew SC they look to attack down the wings. Look for both players to look to make an impact on the game and get quality service into Wright-Phillips.
How Crew SC Win
If it isn’t broke, why change it? Columbus needs to come out and play a consistent 90 minutes for the first time this season. If the group starts slow, it will be punished and quickly. After Crew SC’s performance last week, the defense looks poised to have a solid performance in this one. Whether it is Jonathan Mensah or Alex Crognale paired with Nicolai Naess the central defense will have its hands full with Wright-Phillips and Kljestan. Ola Kamara’s match with Aurelien Collin will be interesting to watch as the two Columbus forward and New York center back will be batting for supremacy all night.
If Crew SC want to get particularly cheeky in this one they will need to foul. They need to be smart when they foul. Not in a way that will accumulate cards, but enough to halt the flow of play. New York’s offense cannot get going effectively in a game that has a lot of starting and stoping. If the Crew commit “business” fouls then that should situate them in a better position to win on Saturday.
Reload and Rebuild
This game will showcase a lot of youth for both clubs. The Red Bulls are in a much different place than Columbus as they are looking to “reload” as they replace veterans with an influx of youth. On the other hand, the Black & Gold are in a “rebuilding” period as they look to build towards the future with the likes of Niko Hansen, Alex Crognale and Kekuta Manneh.
New York will counter in this game by showcasing the aforementioned Alex Muyl, Derrick Etienne Jr. and Connor Lade. Look for youth to play a significant role in this one as it could be a deciding factor in this close tilt.
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