When last the New York Red Bulls and Columbus Crew met, the Red Bulls were on a four game unbeaten streak and one win away from the top of the Eastern Conference while the Crew was looking like a real contender. This Saturday night is a very different scenario. Both teams are sitting on a mediocre twenty points after seventeen games played and both have a zero goal differential. One of these teams needs to make a move in order to help secure a spot in the playoffs. So who's going to get the job done?
Here's what we know:
Screw the all-star game, BWP is ON FIRE!
Bradley Wright-Phillips went into the World Cup break on a hot streak. Some worried that the two week vacation might have cooled him off, but those concerns have been pushed aside as the English forward has scored in both games since the break came to and end. He may not be in the forefront of the All Star Game fan voting, but BWP is leading the golden boot race with fourteen goals and will look to add to the tally this Saturday night. When a striker is that hot, and paired with Thierry Henry, opposing defenses are going to have a bad time.
Dax is back!
New York announced two days ago that everyone's favorite ginger destroyer [and sex god], Dax McCarty, will be available for selection on Saturday night. While Ibrahim Sekagya has filled in nicely in Dax's absence, the Red Bulls have been leaking goals like crazy. Dax's return brings some much needed mobility in front of a very young back line which will help reinforce the leaky defense. He may not start, and if he does, he may not play a full ninety, but any amount of time Dax is able to give will be a great help.
Filed under "moves nobody saw coming," the Red Bulls announced yesterday that left winger, Jonny Steele has decided to leave the team for a club "outside of MLS." Steele hadn't been playing well enough to keep his starting spot on the left this season, but he was a valuable option to come off the bench late in a game and had the ability to make a difference. Now that he's out, New York is going to have to rely on Eric Alexander on the left, at least until Roy Miller is fit enough to return to the pitch.
Here's what we don't know:
The Higuain effect.
He may not be heading into the World Cup final like his brother, but Federico Higuain is still one of the most creative and dangerous players in Major League Soccer. With six goals and five assists on the season, Higuain has a deadly eye for making dangerous passes and a nose for the goal. It's very possible that the Argentine #10 will cut through New York's faltering midfield with little difficulty. If Dax McCarty is able to play a full ninety, it would help to cut down Higuain's productivity, but Ibrahim Sekagya might not be as effective.
The Penalty effect.
Last week's penalty was a tough one to swallow. Rookie defender, Chris Duvall, was incorrectly accused of a handball in the box which resulted in a 2-2 draw against Houston that easily should have been a win. Oddly enough, the last time the Red Bulls played the Crew, it was another right back giving up the PK. Kosuke Kimura (remember him?) committed a dumb foul in the box and Jairo Arrieta beat Luis Robles on the ensuing penalty kick, spoiling what could very well have been a clean sheet. At this point it feels like Robles has had to face a PK in every match. Will the trend continue this Saturday night when a largely inexperienced back line?
Will the streak continue, or better yet, improve?
The Red Bulls are on a four game unbeaten streak but only one of those games ended with a win. Sure, it's great to go four without a loss, but New York needs to start pulling a full three points out of these games (especially at home) if they want a shot at making the playoffs, let alone a run at MLS Cup. Unfortunately, Red Bull Arena isn't exactly the fortress it once was. Teams are finding it easier to beat RBNY in their own home this season, so Saturday night is far from a guarantee.
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