What We Know and What We Don't Know: Columbus Crew Edition


In which we take a lookie-loo at the Columbus Crew.

If I know the supporters of the New York Red Bulls (and I think I do),  there's a whole lot of talk going around about this weekend's match-up against the Columbus Crew being a trap game.   It's a valid concern considering New York's tendency to play up or down to the quality of their opponents.  The Crew, quite frankly, haven't been very good this season, so it's only natural to assume that the Red Bulls won't play very well in Columbus on Saturday night.  So let's take a look at what we know and what we don't know heading into this weekend's game.

Here's what we know:

  • The Red Bulls are riding high.

Coming off of two big wins against league leading teams, New York is firing on all cylinders.   They somehow shook the lousy road form monkey off of their backs last weekend in Kansas City and are looking to extend their win streak to three against a faltering Columbus side.  The Red Bulls are gelling as a team like never before and seem to have finally bought into coach Mike Petke's plan.

New York has faced Columbus twice so far this season.  In both matches the Crew's game plan seemed to be "shut down Thierry Henry"  and they've effectively pulled it off.   Unfortunately for Columbus, the French super star isn't the only credible threat in New York's attack these days.  While they're busy pairing two defenders on Henry, Fabian Espindola will be running an offside muck with their back line, Peggy Luyindula will be wide open to shank another 15 sitters and Jonny Steele will be terrorizing their left flanks.

  • Higuain looks like Charlie Brown.
Federico Higuain bears a striking resemblance to Chuck Shultz' round headed protagonist while wearing the Crew's signature yellow Kit.   I can't be the only one who see's this right?  Regardless, the Argentine attacker is Columbus' greatest creative threat.   He may not be experiencing the same kind of success from last season, but Higuain is still one of the most solid players in this league.  Keep an eye on him, he'll be keeping the Red Bull's defense busy.

Here's what we don't know:

  • Was last week's win on the road a fluke?
I'm sure Columbus hopes so!  The Red Bulls have been notoriously mediocre against lesser teams when playing away from home.   They gave us an impressive, counter-attacking performance in Kansas City, but I doubt they stick to the same plan in Columbus.  If they're able to hold onto that momentum and maintain their current form, they should be able to walk out of Columbus with three points.

  • What is this starting lineup going to look like?
I think it's fair to say that everyone was a bit surprised to see Ibrahim Sekagya slotted in as a defensive midfielder last week.  What was even more surprising was the fact that he seemed to play the position perfectly well.   Petke went into the match knowing exactly what kind of plan he wanted to implement and playing Sekagya gave him the extra defensive strength to pull it off to a tee.   Will we see him fill in the middle again this week?

Lloyd Sam has go to feel at least a little bit of frustration right now.   Entering the last match as a late game sub, Sam put in what is arguably his best performance while wearing a Red Bulls jersey.  Only playing for just over twenty minutes, Sam tallied an assist and a goal that essentially put the game to bed and earned him the title of MLS Man of the Week .   Sadly, he was forced to leave the game with a knock to his quad.  It seems like anytime he starts to show any kind of offensive spark, he suffers some sort of set back.   If Sam is healthy enough to play this week, it will go a long way to boosting the speedy winger's confidence and earning him more minutes on the pitch.

Here's what we think:

  • Luyindula is going to change some minds.
Peguy Luyindula cannot possibly be as incompetent in front of the net as he's letting on.  The French striker's career is way too impressive to believe that he's THAT bad.  Things don't get much worse than the sitter he biffed last week.  Thankfully, a whiff that terrible has got to be some kind of wake up call.  Hopefully that's his rock bottom.  Peguy Luyindula will start to climb out of his hole this week.

  • The New York Red Bulls will treat treat this match like a statement game.
They have to.   There are too many people (myself included) who just aren't convinced that they're able to beat bad teams like they should...especially when they're on the road.   The Red Bulls are going to dominate the pitch on Saturday night.  Look for a 3-1 win with two goals from Thierry Henry and one from Peguy Luyindula.

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