The Columbus Crew enters Wednesday’s matchup with the New York Red Bulls having lost the last four games. This losing streak has featured back-to-back games in which the Crew conceded four goals and consecutive home defeats. The most recent addition to the loss column was a dismal 1-0 result at Soldier Field to the Chicago Fire.
This highlights a large problem Columbus has in the attacking third, as the team has repeatedly failed to create chances on goal. In fact, the Black & Gold rank lowest in MLS in chance creation and is third from bottom in shots on goal.
Fortunately for the Crew, the Red Bulls present a great opportunity to break this slump as a team that is winless in seven straight matches. As Columbus looks to get back on track, here’s what you can expect in this midweek matchup.
New York Red Bulls at a Glance:
Record: 5-4-9, 19 points
League Form: L-L-D-L-L
Leading Scorer: Caden Clark, Christian Casseres Jr., Patryk Klimala (4)
Assist Leader: Fabio (5)
Player to Watch: Christian Casseres Jr.
Casseres has been one of the bright spots in an otherwise dismal campaign for the Red Bulls as the 21 year old has played well so far in his 2021 MLS campaign. This is highlighted by an improved goal tally (4), which is tied for best on the team.
Typically playing in central midfield, Casseres is known for his ball-winning and distributing abilities. This season, he has shown more willingness to venture forward and join the attack. Casseres’ attributes are well suited to feature in New York’s style of play and have led to his emergence both in the MLS and with the Venezuelan National Team.
Casseres will be a huge part of the Red Bulls’ game plan on Wednesday night and the Crew will do well to limit his impact on the game.
How the New York Red Bulls play:
Despite their struggles so far in 2021, the Red Bulls have largely stuck with the playing style that they have used in the past. This style makes New York one of the more difficult and in-your-face sides to play against and one of the hardest sides to break down in the league, which is backed up by the team’s strong defensive record in 2021.
The Red Bulls have a huge emphasis on the defensive part of the game and making it hard for their opponents to play. Typically pressing very high up the field, New York looks to cause turnovers in the opponent’s half and attack from there. When in possession of the ball, the Red Bulls look to move the ball into their opponent’s half as quickly as possible. Once they are able to do so, New York typically looks to attack quickly and centrally, often vacating wide areas of the field to do so.
Upon losing the ball, the Red Bulls try to win the ball back quickly. This often means several nearby players swarming the ball and applying pressure. This sort of in-your-face, chaotic strategy is what has contributed to New York being one of the more continually successful sides in the league the past several years (this year aside).
How the Crew can win:
First and foremost, the start of this match, specifically the first goal, will be a huge part of this match. The Black & Gold will do themselves and their confidence wonders if they are able to start the match well and score first.
In addition to the boost in confidence it would provide, Columbus is 5-0 when scoring first this year. Contrastly, the Crew has won just once when conceding first. There’s also a psychological boost if the Black & Gold are able to score first. If Columbus was to concede first on Wednesday, the idea of “here we go again” could very quickly enter the minds of players and coaches alike.
In addition, the Black & Gold’s playing style isn’t suited to come from behind very often. The first goal in this match will go a long way towards determining the outcome.
There also needs to be a renewed focus for the Crew in limiting turnovers, particularly in the team’s own half. Columbus fans will well remember the errors made by Jonathan Mensah and Aboubacar Keita that led to goals for the opposition the last time that the Crew faced a high-pressing team in D.C. United.
Simply put, similar turnovers will almost guarantee that the Black & Gold struggle again in this match. In fact, unnecessary turnovers all over the field will be a problem as New York is built to pray on these errors.
Due to the Red Bulls’ style of play, the Crew will likely have a large percentage of possession in this game. Thus, capitalizing on unnecessary or sloppy turnovers will be a huge part of New York’s game plan. If Columbus wants to take three points, the team will need to do a good job limiting turnovers in possession.
Lastly, and arguably most obviously, the Black & Gold and head coach Caleb Porter need to find a way to be more dangerous in the attacking third. It has been well documented the struggles Columbus has had in the attack this season and it is no doubt limiting the team’s results.
While there certainly can be an argument made for a lack of continuity in the lineup due to injuries, national team call-ups and more, and that definitely plays a part in the offensive struggles, the Crew can and should look to attack in different ways in this game and every game thereafter.
Currently, Columbus’ attack is largely focused on patience and moving the opposition side to side, which can be effective. However, as opponents have caught on to this strategy and how to effectively defend it, the Black & Gold need to add another evolution to their attack. Whether it be utilizing the wide areas more or focusing on combining more centrally, attacking quicker in transition or playing longer, more direct passes to get in behind the opponent, the Crew needs to find new ways to threaten the opposition.
Despite all of the Black & Gold’s recent struggles and poor run of results, Columbus fans can find hope in the fact that Porter has only lost once to the Red Bulls in his career and has never lost to New York with the Crew. Black & Gold fans hope to see that trend continue on Wednesday night.