Crew v. Red Bulls – The Face Off

COLvNY Image: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Crew vs. New York Red Bulls – How Will it Pan Out?

It’s almost here – Major League Soccer Playoffs have reached the Conference final stages, where the two top MLS dogs will emerge from the East and the West.  Then, they will face each other at the MLS Cup final, where the best team in Major League Soccer for 2015 will be crowned as MLS Champions.

So practically speaking, all four teams are just two and three matches away from becoming Conference and MLS Champions respectively.

Columbus Crew will host the New York Red Bulls for the first leg of the MLS Eastern Championships, for what is expected to be an interesting faceoff between two MLS sides that play a very distinct style of soccer.

The Crew is planning to focus more on building possession and using the momentum to excel and launch attacks that will most likely find Kei Kamara, but also Ethan Finlay and Federico Higuain.

Columbus Crew has also proven to be a well-organized, disciplined team that can stick to a game plan and execute on the pitch the strategy of Head Coach Gregg Berhalter.

Case in point, in Major League Soccer’s Playoff semifinals, the Crew managed to shut down MLS-East powerhouse and Canadian rival Montreal Impact, by closing down on start-striker Dider Drogba and reducing him from one of the top MLS threats to very few chances. Especially on the second leg where Drogba struggled to even complete passes.

A lot of the credit for the lockdown on Drogba should be given to Columbus Crew’s Gaston Suaro.  The physical Argentinian defender was tasked with marking Drogba, and his efforts yielded him a yellow card that disqualifies him from playing against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday.

Even without Suaro, the Crew’s defense and strong back will be difficult for the Red Bulls to crack.  Adding Kei Kamara’s creativity when it comes to attacks, and dominance in the air (11 goals this season out of the 24 he scored were headers), the Red Bulls have a pretty dangerous mission ahead of them.

Hosts New York Red Bulls are also strong contenders that should never be taken lightly.  Especially not after this Major League Soccer season where they have dominated the MLS Eastern Conference, came at the top of the table, and have proven to have probably the best midfield in the MLS.

The high-powered midfield Red Bulls trio of Felipe, Dax McCarthy and Sacha Kljestan seems to prevent opponents from developing any momentum that will threat New York’s third half.  In the second leg of the MLS Playoffs semifinals against D.C. United the New York Red Bulls’ midfield trio made together 27 recoveries.

Thus, it will probably be difficult for Columbus to launch bursting, quick attacks from back to front with New York’s midfield in the way.

The Red Bulls midfield is not the only threat, as New York’s Head Coach Jesse Marsch is also relaying on a very strong, eager and young back, namely defender Matt Miazga.

And when it comes to attack, the New York Red Bulls have the not-so-secret weapon that has been terrorizing many teams in Major League Soccer this season – English striker Bradley Wright-Phillips, who tends to position himself in the oppositions danger zone and score when it it’s least, or most expected.  For example his last-minute goal against D.C. United that sealed New York’s spot in the MLS Eastern Conference finals.

So, what will it be? Kei Kamara and Bradley Right-Phillips in a scoring competition? Gaston Suaro and Matt Miazga competing for best-defender? Or maybe it will all happen in the midfield?

One thing is for sure – it’s going to be a fascinating game!!