Ahead of the New York Red Bulls' matchup (depending on weather) against the visiting Columbus Crew SC, we sat down with Patrick Murphy, editor at our sister blog, Massive Report (MR). Here's what he had to say.
OaM: Kei Kamara is having a MVP caliber season. What has been the key to his success this year?
MR: Opportunity. Kamara was always a freak athlete, dating back to his first stint with Crew SC, but it's been tough for him to play consistently in his natural position. Even during his previous MLS-best seasons with Sporting Kansas City, he was on the right wing of a three-pronged attack.
In Gregg Berhalter's system, Kamara is the lone striker in an offense that creates a lot of chances. Between support players Federico Higuain, Ethan Finlay, and Justin Meram, opportunities in front of goal are abundant for Kamara as evidence by his 129 shots on the seasons. He proved this year what a good finisher he can be with any part of his body, but the ability to lose a defender was what surprised me.
Berhatler said Kamara's exceeded anyone's expectation and those were pretty high when the Black & Gold acquired him a year ago. He is the missing link in what was already a dangerous Crew SC attack last year.
OaM: With only 3 games left in the season for Columbus, and other teams in the East having games in hand, how important are these last 3 games to the Crew?
MR: These final games are crucial for Crew SC. The Black & Gold were riding high before last week's disappointing setback at home against the Portland Timbers and the team will want to start rebuilding momentum this weekend. Berhalter said today that the goal is to finish in one of the top two spots in the East, but he admitted the team does not control its own destiny.
All Columbus can do is get results and hope things work out with other teams. That begins on Saturday.
OaM: The Red Bulls have been a solid home team this year, earning 2.07 PPG at home. What can Columbus do as the visitors to drop that PPG number?
MR: It starts and ends with handling New York's high pressure. In both meetings this season this pressure high up the field hurt Crew SC and it helped RBNY get results. Now the game shifts to Red Bull Arena where, as you said, New York has been very good this season. The Black & Gold have been solid on the road lately with four wins in a row, but this will certainly be a test.
I think it really comes down to scoring early for Columbus. When Crew SC has a lead, they can keep the ball and really make the other team work. They are less susceptible on the counterattack when they score first because they don't have to commit numbers forward to come from behind.
If this happens, Crew SC will be able to dictate the game a bit more. If not, they will have to push and it could get ugly depending on how the Red Bulls play.