Red Bulls Retain Eastern Crown
(HARRISON, NJ) – The New York Red Bulls all but clinched the top spot in the eastern conference. The win over Columbus Crew SC put NY in the driver seat with a single game remaining. The Red Bulls looked to easily take the game over Columbus with a 3-0 lead. Yet, they still managed to leave it late and the fans holding their breath.
The first half was one of frustration for NY as they failed to capitalize on an early penalty. Alex Muyl pressured Crew keeper Brad Stuver into a poor turnover at the edge of the box. Muyl would have been in alone, but the Columbus man hauled him down to earn the penalty. Stuver easily saved Sacha Kljestan’s soft penalty and Columbus kept the game scoreless. The Red Bulls would go on to dominate the first half, but failed to put a shot away. The 0-0 halftime score seemed like a warning sign of things to come.
The second half would start with a bang. The Red Bulls grabbed scoring twice in the opening 15 minutes. Mike Grella scored the first goal from the top of the box in the 53rd minute. The goal surely relieved some frustration for Grella who had failed to score in a game since June.
The Bradley Wright-Phillips, the league goal-scoring leader, scored the next two goals. The first came in the 58th minute as BWP capped a nice run by faking out his defender and slotting the ball far post. His second goal was scored on a corner from a deflected header from Aurelien Collin. BWP stuck his foot out to triple the lead in the 70th and took the lead in the golden boot race. Kljestan, who had two assists in the game, now sits just one assist shy of the 20 assist mark. With an assist next week in Philly, Sacha become’s just the second player in MLS history with 20 assists in a season.
Columbus made two subs that changed the complexion of the game with the additions of Ethan Finlay and Dilly Duka. The duo allowed a more creative output from Columbus and the returns were instant. Duka entered in the 71st and the Crew scored their first goal on a break in the 73rd. Justin Meram crossed to Adam Jahn. The big forward once called pillow feet easily finished past Louis Robles.
Ten minutes later, Harrison Afful got on the score sheet. Michael Parkhust saw the right back streaking into the box and found him in stride. Afful deftly chipped the ball over Robles and brought Columbus from the brink to the edge of a major upset. Given the Red Bulls recent history, the final 10 minutes were full of nerves for the players on the field and the fans. A great sense of relief filled the stadium at the final whistle.
The Red Bulls will travel to Philadelphia next to close out the season against the Union. The two teams played an entertaining, hard-nosed game just two-weeks ago. The rematch should have plenty of fireworks.