The New York Red Bulls went to Columbus and tried to get a positive start to their 2018 playoff campaign, but once again they ran into another brick wall of defense as the Columbus Crew stood their ground, as took a one goal clean sheet win in the first leg of the Conference Semi Finals.
Federico Higuaín was used as a second half sub after the long evening in our Nation’s Capital as the Crew took down DC United in penalties, so he was the one that helped create the only goal of the match in the 61st minute.
Milton Valenzuela started the play with a long pass towards the middle of the field and he found a man open, but the quickness of Higuaín once again showed his quality against the Red Bulls. All he did was a slight touch to flick the ball towards Gyasi Zardes and then a sliding shot beat’s Luis Robles for the only goal of the match.
The Red Bulls had plenty of chances in the first half with four corners in four minutes, but they couldn’t get it by Zack Steffen, who was a brick wall in net and he also had help from the post before he stopped the ball from trickling over the goal line in the 27th minute.
Then the moment where you thought Bradley Wright-Phillips was going to be the hero inside second half stoppage time, yet he was also stopped by Steffen by the ends of his fingertips. Kaku collected the ball along the near side of the area, and bent a beauty that BWP flicked towards the back post which Steffen made the big save.
The only save that Luis robles made was inside the final minutes of regulation when the Crew ripped a long distance shot, that was parried away along the near post. While you can say that save should be remembered for the Red Bulls going into the second leg, this was not the performance you were looking for from the Red Bulls.
But as you can tell, once Federico Higuaín was inserted into the start of the second half, the game really changed for the Crew, as well as against the Red Bulls. This is why Higuaín is such a wonderful player.
“I don’t think it was a huge adjustment, when he came in of course he’s quality, of course he’s involved in the play that he sets up.” said Chris Armas. “Their structures changes a bit from the two forwards that are standard.
“It sets up fine for us as we have our two sixes that can plug those gaps, but it’s not a two man job is it, because he finds those spaces and he is a guy you have to keep your eye on and he hurts us on that one play and that’s it.”
While there is a feeling of here we go again, there is still a chance for the Red Bulls to have a better home leg next week. They still have a chance to score goals and try to keep the Crew off the scoreboard, but Armas is going to learn very fast that one wrong move in the next match can kill the game early and another early exit could be coming.