The final game at Red Bull Arena for the 2016 MLS Regular season takes place on Sunday afternoon against one of its most frustrating foes: Columbus Crew.
If you are lucky enough to have a short memory, you may have forgotten that the Crew eliminated the New York Red Bulls from the Eastern Conference Finals last year, and more infamously claimed victory over the Red Bulls in the 2008 MLS Cup Final.
But the 2016 Columbus Crew are in a very different position from last year.
The Columbus Crew were eliminated from MLS Cup playoff contention after a 2-2 draw with Chicago on Thursday night. Now that they're out of the race, they'll be more than happy to keep their longtime rivals from the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Earlier this year the Crew let scoring machine Kei Kamara go to the New England Revolution, only to see Ola Kamara come in and take over the scoring duties with ease, notching 15 goals. Midfielder Justin Merram is no slouch other, as the Iraqi international has five MLS goals and 10 assists this year.
The Red Bulls last played the Crew on June 25 at Mapfre Stadium. Bradley Wright-Phillips notched a goal at the 52' mark to take the lead - but in a rather common theme for the Red Bulls this season, they gave up the lead in the final minutes and settled for a 1-1 draw.
Given how tough the Columbus Crew have played the Red Bulls during Jesse Marsch's tenure, the team should definitely not take their rivals for granted - even if they do have little to play for.
Thankfully Sacha Kljestan made it out of the friendlies for the USMNT without any notable bumps or bruises, so he should be good to go in the home finale. Ronald Zubar seems farther along in his injury recover than Omer Damari and Daniel Royer, so the Red Bulls' star defender should be an option for Jesse Marsch.
Here is the New York Red Bulls' predicted XI vs Columbus Crew:
GK Luis Robles
DF Kemar Lawrence
DF Aurelien Collin
DF Damien Perrinelle - Though we could assume a healthy Ronald Zubar gets the nod, Jesse Marsch may want to play it cautious for one more week and give DP the start.
DF Chris Duvall
MF Dax McCarty
MF Mike Grella
MF Sacha Kljestan
MF Alex Muyl
FW Bradley Wright Phillips - If the MLS season ended today, BWP would win the Golden Boot thanks to his assists mark. But with David Villa as hot for NYC FC as he's ever been, the Goal King could use another goal or several to secure his second Golden Boot in three years. It couldn't hurt the team if he got those goals either...
Though Marsch has been a real miser when it comes to using his subs, this late in the season we should expect that he'll start pulling the veterans Kljestan, BWP, Aurelien Collin and Dax McCarty more often if the team is in a solid enough position. In the unlikely event that the Red Bulls both get the win and see NYC FC & Toronto fail to win their games, we might even see Marsch give the four veterans significant rest in the season finale against Philadelphia.
What do you think?