As time ticked away on Saturday night inside MAPFRE Stadium, Columbus Crew SC stood moments away from a potentially devastating third consecutive defeat. The Black & Gold wouldn’t be denied though, as and captain Wil Trapp unleashed a howitzer from 35 yards out in stoppage time to save the day for the home team.
Crew SC heads on the road to Harrison, New Jersey, for a date with an in-form New York Red Bulls team that has undergone some cosmetic changes but is still very much the same team under the hood.
The Red Bulls won on Wednesday evening, making quick work of Wayne Rooney and D.C. United. Following the win, New York sit in third place in the competitive Eastern Conference and head back to Red Bull Arena, where the team is unbeaten in six straight games.
Can the Red Bulls extend its streak under new head coach Chris Armas? Let’s take a look at how the New York will play.
New York at a glance
Leading Scorer: Bradley Wright-Phillips (14)
Assists Leader: Kaku (9)
Last time they met
It was a scorcher at MAPFRE Stadium as both team met underneath some intense weather conditions. Crew SC claimed a lead in the first half off the strength of a Gyasi Zardes goal.
Soft defense from the Back & Gold allowed the visitors to equalize in the 57th minute. Midfielder Alex Muyl buried a great set-piece opportunity, as his teammate Marc Rzatkowski dropped the perfect ball just inside the six-yard box. Muyl capitalized on the opportunity and brought his team level.
If this section looks familiar from the previous scouting report earlier in the season, it’s because it is. One noticeable difference, Chris Armas plays with his outside backs in a very advanced position.
Much like Crew SC, Kamar Lawrence and Michael Murillo utilize as much space as they can on the wings. It’s not uncommon to see them reach the end line just before deciding to get a cross into the penalty box at the last minute. Red Bulls generate a good amount of its scoring chances from second chance opportunities, this means that Crew SC should remain vigilant and clear the ball with every chance they get.
Should Columbus be tentative, it could prove costly on the scoreboard.
Throughout the season, many pundits have showered Red Bulls midfielder Tyler Adams with compliments. Initially, the praise looked premature, but since Armas’ introduction in New York the young midfielder has thrived.
Adams is playing really creative soccer. He was a catalyst on offense during the most recent Hudson River Derby at Yankee Stadium. The 19-year-old played some beautifully weighted through balls wide to Muyl and Daniel Royer and wouldn’t shy away from a shot from distance.
As transfer rumors continue circulating around the young player, it may only be a matter of time before New York ships out its next big star.
How Crew SC win
We will call an audible from the initial scouting report in June. In the first meeting between Eastern Conference rivals, we called for Gregg Berhalter to run at Lawrence and put pressure on the left side of the pitch. It appears that more direct runs through the center of the park will do the trick in this one.
In previous games, center backs Aaron Long and Tim Parker got caught playing too compact and exposed too much space in the penalty area. Given New York’s run of form, it’s not a deal breaker but something Columbus needs to be cognizant of to generate scoring opportunities.
Defensively Crew SC must be sharper, plain and simple. The Black & Gold need to eliminate cheap giveaways like what we saw against New York City FC a few weeks ago. It’s comforting knowing that Zack Steffen can clean the mess up at the back, but Columbus have to be better as this brutal stretch of the MLS schedule forges on.