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Massive Scouting Report: Running with the Red Bulls

Crew SC look to close out the series in Harrison, New Jersey on Sunday night.

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

Columbus Crew SC head to Harrison, New Jersey, following a massive victory last weekend at MAPFRE Stadium in the Leg 1 of the MLS Cup playoffs Eastern Conference semifinals. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

The Black & Gold head to Red Bull Arena looking to stop the Supporter Shield winners, en route to a birth in the Eastern Conference Finals. This game has similar feelings to their 2015 clash in which Crew SC edged out the Red Bulls, winning on a 2-1 aggregate scoreline. We’ve seen history repeat itself, but will lady luck continue to smile on the Black & Gold?

The last meeting

It was a tightly contested match during the first half of last week’s match. That all changed with the introduction of Federico Higuain in the second half. The Crew SC Designated Player continued to work his playoff magic, generating a great scoring chance for Gyasi Zardes with a back heel pass. The nifty footwork was enough for Zardes, who made the most of his opportunity and allowed Columbus to take a 1-0 aggregate lead back to Harrison for Sunday’s game.

How New York wins

Crew SC head coach Gregg Berhalter did a masterful job by rolling out a different formation last week to start the game, going with a 4-4-2 as opposed to his traditional 4-2-3-1. It might not seem like a big thing on paper, but the psychological toll that takes on New York is huge. The Red Bulls have dedicated valuable practice time to defending a formation they might not see deployed on Sunday.

Regardless, expect to see New York attempt their patented high press and force Crew SC into making silly turnovers. It’s not likely that the Black & Gold hold Bradley Wright-Phillips off the scoresheet two weeks in a row, but look for players like Alex Muyl and Danny Royer to have a say in proceedings during Sunday’s match.

How Crew SC win

The Columbus coaching staff needs to be commended with how they’ve handled the playoff lineups thus far. It’s easy to see why Berhalter is a front-runner for the U.S. Men’s National Team job based on how he handles these situations.

Expect to see Crew SC continue to attack from the wings, I believe that Pedro Santos might prove to be a difference maker in this match. The winger had a dynamic performance coming off the bench, and if it wasn’t for a few key saves from Luis Robles, the Red Bulls might be in a deeper hole.

The Black & Gold cannot allow easy chances to New York. Columbus must make it difficult to get a shot off inside of the 18-yard box. Should the opposition create an opportunity inside of the penalty area, Crew SC must make sure those chances come from acute angles to decrease the likelihood of a Red Bull goal.