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Massive Scouting Report: New York Red Bulls

A look at how the Black & Gold can get three points against the visiting Red Bulls.

MLS: New England Revolution at New York Red Bulls Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The international break is over and the Columbus Crew returns to action this Saturday at Lower.com Field. The New York Red Bulls come to town for the final home game for the Black & Gold of the MLS regular season.

Saturday marks arguably the most important match of the year for Columbus. With three games left this year, the Crew sits just below the MLS Cup playoffs line on a goal differential tiebreaker. The ability to take three points from this matchup is vital for the Black & Gold’s postseason chances.

The Red Bulls currently sit third in the Eastern Conference and hope to lock down a home playoff match. These two teams met previously in Harrison, New Jersey in Week 4 in what was a thrilling match that saw goals from each side after the 80th minute, resulting in a tie.

Here’s what to expect from New York and how Columbus can take a massive three points from this game.

New York Red Bulls at a Glance:

Record: 14-8-10, 50 points

League Form: L-W-L-W-W

Leading Scorer: Lewis Morgan (14)

Assist Leader: Christian Casseres Jr. (4)

Player to Watch: Lewis Morgan

Morgan has been arguably the most impactful intra-league transfer of the 2022 season. The Red Bulls acquired Morgan from Inter Miami this past offseason and the Scotsman has hit the ground running. With 14 goals and three assists in 29 matches, Morgan has fit perfectly into New York’s system and both sides have reaped the rewards.

The midfielder is able to use his pace and vision to make incisive runs behind the opponent's backline and put himself in scoring positions. In addition to this, Morgan is also a well-rounded finisher from outside the penalty box. Morgan’s ability to combine threatening runs behind the defense as well as punish defenders from a distance has caused havoc for MLS defenses all year. The Crew backline, without captain Jonathan Mensah, will have to be well aware of Morgan in order to slow down the Red Bulls’ attack on Saturday.

How New York Red Bull play:

New York manager Gerhard Struber has found the right mix for his side in 2022. This campaign is Struber’s second full year in charge of the Red Bulls and he has successfully improved on his side from last season after just sneaking into the MLS Cup playoffs.

The Red Bulls emphasize being a difficult side for their opponents to face. They also feature what Black & Gold head coach Caleb Porter calls “percentage football.” They do this in a number of ways but most notably on the defensive side of things.

New York is known for intense defensive pressure, including pressing high up the field in an effort to win the ball back close to the opponent's goal. In addition, to the short distance the team then has to goal after winning the ball back, this often makes the Red Bulls’ opponents uncomfortable in possession and can knock possession-based opponents (like Columbus) out of its passing rhythm.

When New York is in possession, the team often looks to move the ball towards the opponent's goal as quickly and directly as possible. The pressure that this can put the opponents under, can cause all sorts of mistakes and discomfort on the backline.

The Red Bulls also excels in both attacking and defensive transition moments. When New York loses possession, the team often quickly counter presses to win the ball back before counter attacking as quickly as possible before the opponent can get into a defensive shape. The success that the Red Bulls have in these moments and their ability to inflict their style of play on their opponents makes them one of the hardest teams to play in MLS.

How the Crew can win:

It is do-or-die time for the Black & Gold. As the 2022 regular season winds down, Columbus is in desperate need of three points at home to get into the MLS Cup playoffs. Here are a few things for them to focus on in order to do that in this game.

There are a few tactical aspects of this match that will be important for the Crew. The Black & Gold and New York have remarkably different styles of play. It is vital that Columbus is to inflict the team’s possession-based style on the Red Bulls this Saturday.

While it is likely that the Crew will have the majority of possession on Saturday, what’s more important is what the team does in the first few seconds after losing the ball. When the Red Bulls win the ball back, they will look to attack the Black & Gold goal as quickly as possible. Columbus must do an excellent job of counter pressing once the ball is lost and win the ball back in these moments in order to control the flow of the match.

In addition to the need for a successful counter press, the Crew needs to be able to be more dangerous in attack. A longtime plight that has faced the Black & Gold is their ability to turn possession into attacking chances and goals. They will have the chance to begin to right this ship against Red Bull.

New York often applies very intense pressure to their opponents in possession of the ball. When this is done, the team’s off-ball defenders are asked to shift a larger than normal amount to provide defensive cover for their teammates. These shifts will open up areas for Columbus to quickly change the point of attack and attack the extra space provided to them in other areas of the field. Players like Lucas Zelarayan and Darlington Nagbe can be vital in playing these passes into these spaces and allowing their teammates to exploit this space.

Lastly, the Crew has to be better at closing out games. These struggles have been well documented this year and put the team in this position in the standings. But these errors can still be corrected in these final three matches by getting leads and closing games out.