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Massive Predictions: Crew SC at New York Red Bulls

Can the Black & Gold advance to the Eastern Conference Final?

MLS: Eastern Conference Semifinal-New York Red Bulls at Columbus Crew SC Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

On Sunday evening, Columbus Crew SC has a chance to head back to the Eastern Conference Finals of the MLS Cup playoffs for the second consecutive year after losing 1-0 on aggregate goals to Toronto FC last season. The Black & Gold face the New York Red Bulls in Leg 2 of the conference semifinals.

In the first leg in Columbus last Sunday, Crew SC held the Red Bulls scoreless for the first 45 minutes. At halftime, Gregg Berhalter elected to bring in midfield maestro Federico Higuain, who played 120 minutes three days prior, changing the team’s shape from a 4-4-2 formation back to its typical 4-2-3-1. That move made all the difference as Higuain was once again great for the Black & Gold, helping to set up Gyasi Zardes’ game-winning goal.

Now Columbus heads to Red Bull Arena with a slim advantage. The Supporters’ Shield winners will be hungry at home, hoping to best Crew SC’s first-leg output. If the Black & Gold can find an away goal, it would make things very difficult for New York, who would then have to win by two goals due to the tiebreaker.

Can Columbus get the necessary result to prolong the 2018 postseason at least two more games? Let’s see what our staff thinks of this matchup.

Guilherme Torres

Columbus Crew SC has yet another “most important game of the season” ahead and the team has reacted pretty well to those kinds of matches so far. Playing the best team in Major League Soccer regular season history on the road, where it won 14 of its 17 games so far, with just a single-goal advantage could be worrisome, but the Black & Gold has inspired confidence lately.

The key to this game relies on Crew SC’s defensive system. If this team can be as efficient as it has been in recent games and if it can limit the duo of Kaku and Bradley Wright-Phillips as it did last week, then we could be seeing the Black & Gold advancing to its third Eastern Conference Finals in just four seasons.
Columbus Crew SC 1 New York Red Bulls 1

Patrick Murphy

There weren’t many teams that could face the Red Bulls in the postseason and say they had success against the New York side in the regular season. Crew SC is one of those teams as they went 1-0-1 against the team that set the MLS record for most points in a season, including a 3-2 win at Red Bull Arena.

On Sunday, after a 1-0 win in Leg 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Columbus will look to send the Red Bulls home from the postseason yet again. If Crew SC can get a win or tie, the Black & Gold advance. If the team scores an away goal, Columbus can lose the game. A 1-0 win by New York would force overtime and potentially penalty kicks.

When I look at this game, I’m concerned that the Red Bulls are going to be angry with their performance in the first leg and will come out guns blazing. While Crew SC’s defense has been good all year, RBNY had the third-best offense in the league and I can’t see them staying off the board again, especially at home. This means the Black & Gold have to score on the road, something the team struggled with much of the 2018 regular season. Yes, Columbus scored two goals against D.C. United away from home in the Knockout Round, but I’m not sure that’s going to become the norm.

I think this is where the run ends for Crew SC in what will be a valiant fight.
New York Red Bulls 2 Columbus Crew SC 0

Eliot McKinley

Unlike most of the rest of the league, Gregg Berhalter has seemed to have solved the RBNY puzzle, earning two wins and a draw during the teams’ three meetings this year. The Crew’s 1-0 victory at home last weekend makes them the favorites to move to the Conference Finals according to Five Thirty Eight’s forecast model. I expect another disciplined game from the Crew, who will lose the game but win the series by advancing on away goals.
New York Red Bulls 2 Columbus Crew SC 1

Collin Johnson

Gregg Berhalter and Crew SC gambled with a different lineup and formation last week to start the game and it paid off big time on short rest. Now, after a full week off, all Columbus has to do is score a single goal on the road.

The Black & Gold have been in the position of holding serve at home and needing to close out a final leg on the road, and have a pretty good track record at closing out those games. It may be tempting to sit back and dare the Red Bulls to score a goal against one of the best defenses in the league but that also represents a significant risk. A single road goal should be enough to send Crew SC through, and they can absolutely do that.

I’m really looking forward to the tactical battle between Chris Armas and Berhalter. Columbus exploited holes in New York’s vaunted press, so it’s both up to the Black & Gold to keep exploiting those weaknesses and to the Red Bulls to add in a new tactical wrinkle. After last week, I’m sticking with Crew SC to get the goal on the road.
New York Red Bulls 2 Columbus Crew SC 1

Patrick Guldan

Columbus has the advantage, but the series certainly isn’t over. New York has an outstanding defense and one of the best offenses in the league. Even as they press forward, the Red Bulls can keep things locked down in the back. It will be hard to keep New York off the scoreboard with an attack led by Kaku and Bradley Wright-Phillips. A single goal can change the game and if the Red Bulls score first, then the series gets that much tighter.

No team matches up better against New York than Crew SC. This team has been well drilled on how to stay composed in the face of pressure throughout Gregg Berhalter’s tenure and they have the flexibility to adapt as Leg 1 showed. The defense likely will be under siege, even though Columbus likely won’t bunker initially. They will have to take those open spots and strike when the Red Bulls provide an opening.
Columbus Crew SC 1 New York Red Bulls 1

So there you have it. Do you think Crew SC keeps it going against RBNY on Sunday? Let us know in the comment section below.