A busy week continues for Columbus Crew SC as it welcomes the New York Red Bulls to MAPFRE Stadium for its second nationally televised game in three weeks. Last week, the Black & Gold experienced a thrilling three-goal comeback in the second half against Toronto. Head coach Gregg Berhalter brought in three substitutions (Luis Argudo, Alex Crognale and Eduardo Sosa) in an effort to turn the tide against a dominant Toronto FC.
His gamble paid off, the influx of youth saw Crew SC score three unanswered goals to claim a draw and the 2018 Trillium Cup. Focus now shifts to the Red Bulls on Saturday night.
New York comes into this match winning three of its last five matches. Forward Bradley Wright-Phillips is in terrific form but he can’t do it alone. Despite losing key players in the last two seasons, head coach Jesse Marsch continues to keep the Red Bulls on track through clever signings, trades and utilizing the club’s Academy system.
Marsch and his men look to ascend the Eastern Conference and a win against Crew SC would help the cause. Let’s take a look at what the Black & Gold can expect on Saturday night.
Red Bulls at a glance:
Leading goal scorer: Bradley Wright-Phillips (9)
Assists Leader: Kaku (10)
It isn’t uncommon to see players take a dip in form once they pass 30 years of age, but Wright-Phillips seems to be an exception to the rule. The 33-year-old striker is towards the top of the league in goals scored each year, and finds new and innovative ways to challenge opposing defenses.
This season, Wright-Phillips seems keen to use his head. The Englishmen has scored three goals in three match on headed efforts. Opposing defenses do just about everything right, but BWP uses his veteran instincts to find the ball and get it into the back of the net.
The Red Bulls prefer to play with a more pressing style of attack. It isn’t uncommon for outside back Michael Murillo to play in an advanced position. During attacking sequences, he can be as high as the top corner of the penalty area. Murillo possesses an ability to get quality service into the New York forwards and cause havoc in the penalty area. This is where players like Kaku, Daniel Royer and other can pounce on secondary opportunities.
The Red Bulls also possesses their own Argentine playmaker, Alejandro Romero Gamarra better known as “Kaku.” The 23-year-old midfielder stepped in for the departed Sasha Kljestan and does a masterful job. He is third on the team in key passes (1.6 per game) and leads the team in assists. Like his Crew SC counterpart, Kaku sees the play before it develops and anticipates where and when he needs to deliver the ball.
A source of pride for New York in the past has been the team’s love and admiration for a stingy defense. The Red Bulls acquired Tim Parker during the offseason in a trade with the Vancouver Whitecaps and he is paying dividends. The 25 year old frequently teams up with Aaron Long as the center back pairing and both do an excellent job of protecting the New York goal.
Both defenders play in synchronous harmony and recover well if they are beat. Given that the Red Bulls have switched between goalkeepers Luis Robles and Ryan Meara, it could prove tough for defenders to adjust to a new goalkeeper. However, both Parker and Long do a fabulous job.
How Crew SC win
Expect to see the Black & Gold attack the left side of the pitch on Saturday night. Since the Red Bulls opt to press high on the right side, this leaves the lesser athletic outside back Kamar Lawrence to fend for himself. Should Crew SC decide to hit on the break, it’d be wise to run at Lawrence the way the Philadelphia Union demonstrated on May 26th.
Crew SC have a chance to make a statement in the Eastern Conference throughout this three-game MLS stretch at home. Points against Toronto, New York and Atlanta United early in the season could go a long way in determining playoff seeding towards the end of the season. Good teams find ways to get points during tough stretches, so how good are Columbus Crew SC?