Chris Armas got it right again. A third consecutive win for Jesse Marsch’s replacement puts the Red Bulls just two points back of NYCFC and three from first place Atlanta United.
Bradley Wright-Phillips’ 100th Red Bulls goal was enough to see the team past DC United 1-0 in a waterlogged match contested at Audi Field.
From the minute the match kicked off, it was clear this was going to be a rough one to watch. The field was drenched and the players were having trouble reading the amount of weight they needed to put on each pass.
The 2nd minute goal by BWP was even more important for that fact, as the Red Bulls did not need to press as hard as they normally would. The early lead lasted for the rest of the 88 minutes, with another road win in the books for Armas’ men.
The initially puzzling decision to start Derrick Etienne and bench Daniel Royer proved to be the right move by Armas. With this upcoming match against a tough Columbus Crew team, playing Royer for just 29 minutes was a wonderful idea.
Armas also got to rest Marc Rzatkowski, who came on in the 67th minute for Kaku. The German did not get a goal or assist this match, but he will undoubtably play a big role against the Crew.
The Red Bulls have not lost to the Crew at Red Bull Arena since October 2014. The 3-1 loss that day saw Ethan Finlay score once and assist two other goals in the Crew victory.
Unfortunately for the Crew, they do not have Finlay on their roster anymore. They do have Gyasi Zardes, though, and he is lighting up MLS.
Zardes scored against the Red Bulls in the last meeting these two teams had, putting a first half header past Luis Robles. The Red Bulls fought back for a second half Alex Muyl goal, ultimately drawing 1-1.
The real danger man during the last meeting was defender Harrison Afful. He had the assist on Zardes’ goal and was an absolute menace the entire night.
Armas could tackle this problem by playing Alex Muyl on the left side of midfield. Muyl has really showed his defensive abilities this season, working his tail off for every minute he is on the field.
Kemar Lawrence was a bit overrun by Afful and Pedro Santos on the Red Bulls left side, so adding Muyl as defensive cover will lighten the load on Taxi.
The Red Bulls also have to deal with facing Zack Steffen in net this go around. Steffen was away on national team duty the last time the two teams met, but he will be back in net for this match.
Steffen has struggled a bit recently in MLS. He has allowed ten goals in his last four outings, including a 4-0 shelling by the LA Galaxy.
Granted, two of those matches were against the top two offenses in the Eastern Conference. Steffen will still be going into this match fresh and ready to perform, so the Red Bulls will need to bring their shooting boots.
Playing Bradley Wright-Phillips for the full 90 minutes was an interesting move by Armas. It will be interesting to see how many minutes he gets against the Crew, especially considering he has played back to back 90 minute matches in the span of four days.
Royer could be asked to step up and produce heavily this match. The Austrian is underperforming quite a bit this season, considering the last season he had with the Red Bulls was so fruitful.
The Red Bulls get a well deserved week break after this match before another tough match against LAFC. The team has done well over the last week, winning both matches against the Revs and DC United.
Beating the Crew would make it a perfect three for three against Eastern Conference opponents, which will be huge for their race to the top of the table. As long as Armas keeps his team in line, this should be yet another victory for the boys in red.