The international break has ended this week and it is back to business for the New York Red Bulls, as they prepare to host Columbus Crew SC on Sunday afternoon (3 PM Eastern Time). New York will be looking to extend its 14-game MLS unbeaten streak after a 3-2 victory over the Philadelphia Union in their last contest.
New York Red Bulls Host Columbus Crew SC: Match Preview
A rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference final sees the two clubs at opposite ends of the standings. A difficult start to 2016 dug an early hole for Columbus and they will not be making a return to the postseason to defend their conference title.
The only other meeting between the two sides this season took place in June, as New York and Columbus battled to a 1-1 draw at MAPFRE Stadium. A goal in the second half from forward Bradley Wright-Phillips was canceled out by Ola Kamara deep into stoppage time to see the teams split points on the evening.
What to Watch for
Mike Grella in the Starting Lineup
An injury to Austrian midfielder Daniel Royer has brought midfielder Mike Grella back into the lineup, as he has struggled to regain his strong form from the start of the campaign.
With Royer out, Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch will look for Grella to stretch play on the left wing and provide service inside to Wright-Phillips.
Solid performances in the final two regular season games could see Grella retain his spot in the squad even when Royer does return.
Fatigue for Columbus?
Two away matches in four days is never an easy task, and Columbus head coach Gregg Berhalter knows that his side is in for a challenge. A 2-2 draw at the Chicago Fire on Thursday night followed by a Sunday afternoon at Red Bull Arena will test the Crew’s fitness and stamina.
Marsch and the Red Bulls will look to utilize their high-press system on a team with tired legs. The second half especially could be where this tactic could bring tremendous benefits.
If the pressure becomes too great, Berhalter may look to modify or adjust his formation to deal with a New York side that tends to ramp up the intensity at home.
New York’s Central Defense Against Ola Kamara
Red Bulls centerbacks Damien Perrinelle and Aurelien Collin will need to be at their best in order to contain Columbus forward Ola Kamara. The Norwegian striker’s first season in Major League Soccer has been a successful one, leading the Crew in scoring with 15 goals.
As he displayed against New York in their previous meeting, his ability to create space in the attack and a sharp scoring touch make him a constant threat.
Collin and Perrinelle will want to ensure that their positioning is organized and they are able to keep a cover on one of Columbus’ best offensive weapons.
NEW YORK RED BULLS 3 – COLUMBUS CREW SC 1