Last week, we saw the Red Bulls earn their first win of the season, putting on a brilliant first half display against a solid D.C. United team. This week, the Red Bulls travel to Ohio to take on a Columbus Crew side that is also coming off of their first win of season.
After beating a 10-man Toronto F.C. 2-0 in their home opener, Columbus seem to be living up to their high billing after falling to Houston in their first match of the season. Despite this, Columbus have yet to be full strength this season, and are going to be missing starters on Saturday, with left back Waylon Francis and starting winger Justin Meram away on international duty.
Gregg Berhalter's side will has a wide array of options, with depth being one of their strong suits. At left back, the Crew have a number of options with Chris Klute, Tyson Wahl, and Chad Barson all having experience at the position. As for the vacant winger position, Kristinn Steindorsson, having filled in for Meram in week 1, looks set to replace him again.
The midfield might also see another change with Wil Trapp being labelled a game time decision. The highly rated homegrown player sustained an injury in practice, but the return of Tony Tchani from suspension would see the former Red Bull player slot in at Trapp's position.
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Although the red car given to Toronto certainly helped, Berhalter's men have been dominant in both of their matches this season. Even in their 1-0 loss to Houston, Columbus had more shots on target and held the lion's share of possession. The same held true against Toronto. This possession-based game has vestiges of tiki taka, with one touch passing and crossing. This could especially cause trouble against the Red Bulls, with their center backs being one of their weaker points.
For the Red Bulls, Roy Miller is still missing but Kemar "Taxi" Lawrence filled in admirably against D.C. Ronald Zubar is still questionable, so Matt Miazga, who conceded a penalty last week, could have a chance to redeem himself. Mike Grella was left out of last week's squad as the result of an injury (even though it's not on the official injury report), so Sal Zizzo could also make another appearance in the starting lineup.
Favoring the Red Bulls this week is constancy. They will be able to play the same lineup that got them the win last week, whereas Columbus will have to make some changes. The Red Bulls also improved in their ability to get the ball to Bradley Wright-Phillips and saw wonderful things happen.
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The team is riding an emotional high after nabbing an early win in the course of the season. Last year's team didn't earn their first win until the seventh round, while the side that won the Supporter's Shield didn't win until the fifth round. This could bode well in the long run, if the Red Bulls manage to grab their second win tomorrow.
The Red Bulls, however, have a history of performing poorly on the road. They've failed to win 10 of their last 11 matches away from home. While earning a point away from home is never bad, the more startling sign is that they've only managed one win in their last 11 MLS away games. What makes things even worse is that the Crew have won 7 of their last 8 home games in MLS, which is a pretty impressive run.
Who To Watch
Red Bulls: Bradley Wright-Phillips. As obvious as this pick might seem, I have to mention him. Bradley Wright-Phillips is confident. His goal last week saw him played in on goal off of a gorgeous pass from Dax McCarty, but the Englishman still had plenty of work left to do. It takes audacity to do what he did to set himself up for that shot and hopefully, he's still feeling good after last week.
Columbus: Kei Kamara. The big man is enjoying his return to Columbus, especially with the amount of crosses coming his way. With Matt Miazga still a relatively inexperienced player, the early crosses from Columbus could cause problems for the youngster while allowing Kamara to thrive.
Last Time They Met
MLS Regular Season. A day after clinching a playoff berth, the Crew marched into Red Bull Arena and left with a 3-1 win.
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New York, 26-25-9. There is a small historical precedent for the Red Bulls, but the two teams are more or less even, having split the series last season at 1-1-1.
Columbus (4-2-3-1): Steve Clark; Hernan Grana, Christian Pogatetz, Michael Parkhurst, Tyson Wahl; Mohammed Saied, Tony Tchani; Ethan Finlay, Federico Higuain, Kristinn Steindorsson; Kei Kamara
New York (4-2-3-1): Luis Robles; Chris Duvall, Damien Perinelle, Matt Miazga, Kemar Lawrence; Dax McCarty, Felipe Martins; Sal Zizzo, Sacha Kljestan, Lloyd Sam; Bradley Wright-Phillips
The game will be shown on MSG2 on Saturday, March 27th at 7:30 PM (Eastern).
Venue: Mapfre Stadium