As the New York Red Bulls sat by and waited to see who their opponent was in the first leg of the MLS Cup Playoffs, the wild card games were exciting to watch and there was plenty of action going on in all four matches.
But to see the Columbus Crew taking DC United to the limit and winning it in the penalty kick shootout, that was an edge of your seat thrill ride, that made Red Bulls supporters think that the club has an advantage for the first leg at Maphre Stadium.
“The knockout games have been great and the DC, Columbus game was an exciting match,” said Luis Robles “For it to go to pk’s you always hate that as a player, but at the end of the day it was a really good knockout round, we are ready to go.”
This will be the fourth time these sides will face each other in the playoffs as the Crew have gotten the better of the Red Bulls the last three times. They won their series back in 1998, the MLS Cup Final in 2008 when the Red bulls won thru the Western Conference bracket.
Then the heartbreak of the 2015 playoffs when Anatole Abang pulled one back late in second half stoppage time and an equalizer attempt by Bradley Wright-Phillips that just fell short by hitting the front of the near post and stayed out.
Federico Higuain was the danger man for the Crew as he stepped up big time to get an equalizer in the first half, then the lead in the first half of extra time, till Nick DeLeon buried his chance towards the end of the second half of extra time.
But no matter where he is on the field, Higuaín is a very dangerous player who will always find a way to slip past his defender and get into position to convert a chance so quick, you need to match his cunningness.
While Will Trapp and Gyasi Zardes have had solid seasons for the Crew, the one player who will be missing due to injury is Pedro Santos. The Portuguese Midfielder suffered a right leg injury, as he was carted off around the 109th minute and, learned thru Andrew Erickson of the Columbus Dispatch that he was seen with crutches inside the locker room.
“That’s the key, not to make that one mistake on him (Higuaín).” said Tim Parker “One guy doesn’t make the team, but a guy like Pedro Santos is still apart of that attacking group. Will be ready to see who will fill his shoes.
“We all know Columbus is very good with the ball. They invite our press, they want to break our press and they take pride in it, for us it’s going to be discipline at times, when to press and when not to press. Being able to defend, but also be aware when they spread out and go forward.”
Zack Steffen is the future starting goalkeeper for the US Men’s National Team and once again in a penalty kick shootout, he is the best at making the big stops from the spot. If anything the Red Bulls need to do, is make sure he is uncomfortable all match long.
“He’s a great goalkeeper obviously, but there is nothing to change our style because of him.” said Daniel Royer.
The New York Red Bulls officially received the Supporters Shield from the league and took pictures with it. While at the time it was up in Toronto for Atlanta United to hoist it up, they never got the chance as Toronto FC defeated them by a final of four goals to one.
“That’s a thing of beauty when you see it before hand and you achieve it,” said Chris Armas. “Then the guys think that it’s not often in your career that you are the best team at the moment.
“The ultimate goal is to be the last team standing, but at that moment we are the best team that has our names etched on that trophy. It’s nice to see the shield here and it’s nice to spend some time with it, now the guys said let’s get back to work.”
So the Shield is finally home. But now it’s time for the Red Bulls to get back to business and get ready for their huge road trip to Columbus, Ohio and take on the Crew at Maphre Stadium for their first leg tilt.