New York is still red. Another stomping of NYCFC, this time in the US Open Cup, was just what the team needed after a tough loss to the New England Revolution. Goals from Vincent Bezecourt, Aaron Long, and a Daniel Royer brace were more than enough to see the game out. The 4-0 win was great to see from the team, especially as they shift focus back to MLS.
The victory was important for Bradley Wright-Phillips especially, who was an unused sub during the second derby match of the season. This allowed him to get a full weeks rest in before the Red Bulls tough matchup with the Columbus Crew.
A 1-0 scoreline hung in the air and coach Jesse Marsch probably thought about bringing on BWP at some point in the second half. The comfortable win was perfect for the Red Bulls top scorer to rest his legs and prepare for a tough 90 minutes.
Aaron Long did start this match but was subbed out early in the second half. Marsch likely covered him in bubble wrap and tucked him away until Saturday. The lack of defensive depth is still evident, but the duo of Long and Hassan Ndam did more than enough to stave off the City attack.
The biggest news heading into this match against the Crew is that Luis Robles will be starting in net. His absence has been a lot less of a burden on the team than originally thought. This is due to Ryan Meara’s exceptional play during iron man’s absence.
Meara made numerous important saves and won the hearts of the fans who doubted his ability to take over for the Red Bulls. Now that Robles is back, Meara will be designated back to cup matches, which is where he thrived last season with the team.
Midfielder Sean Davis is another Red Bulls player that is seriously stepping it up this season. He captained the team against NYCFC and played 78 minutes after playing a full 90 minutes against the Revolution just days before. His leadership on and off the field has been much needed, especially in important matches.
Davis has evolved his game, emphasizing interceptions and linking the play from defense to attack. Being able to lock the midfield down, even without the help of Tyler Adams, is a fantastic thing to watch for such a young player. His ceiling keeps increasing under Marsch and the captains armband is not too far off.
Defense will always be a big focus for the Red Bulls, but heading into this match, the focus will be breaking down the stubborn Crew defense. Columbus has the best defense in MLS, allowing just 13 goals in 15 matches.
The team has shown a lot of fight this season. Their most recent MLS match against Toronto FC was a perfect example of this as the club showed an undying fight to earn a draw. After going 3-0 down, the Crew fought back to score three of their own, including two goals after the 80th minute.
The Crew play a similar shape to the Red Bulls, sporting a 4231 formation that relies on two defensive midfielders to help out the backline. With Federico Higuain running the show up top and an unstoppable Gyasi Zardes leading the line, the Crew are a dangerous team to take on.
Zardes’ career year is highlighted by his nine goals thus far. He truly is a player reborn after his fruitless time at LA Galaxy. Aaron Long will need to shut him down just like he has countless other forwards this season.
This will be the Red Bulls fourth match in just 14 days. With another match against the Seattle Sounders just a few days after, the team are nearly over this tough hump in the season. The Crew have been formidable at home this season, so another perfect performance will be required from Marsch’s men to come out on the winning end.