MLS Weekend Preview: Crew Enter Red Bull Arena

As Major League Soccer’s regular season draws to a close, the fight for playoff spots is closer than ever. In the Eastern Conference, only six points separate first place from sixth place. Saturday pits the first and third place teams against each other as the Columbus Crew travel to the coast to take on the New York Red Bulls. Who will win in this battle of title contenders?

The man behind the Crew’s great run this season is the league’s leading scorer Kei Kamara. The 31-year-old has put away an astounding 22 strikes this season, but the Red Bulls have shut him down in their previous two meetings. Kamara is currently on one of his hottest runs of the season netting four times in his last three games including a two-goal performance against the Philadelphia Union. While this nose for goal hasn’t quite translated against the Red Bulls, Kamara has found other ways to contribute as well. When the two teams faced off on July 4th, the former Sporting KC striker assisted both of Ethan Finlay’s goals as the Crew won 2-1. I think the cliché “third time’s a charm” will ring true for Kamara Saturday as he finally scores against the conference leaders.

Where Kamara has thrived on attack, the Crew has struggled in defense. Columbus haven’t managed to record a clean sheet since July 16th and have given up the second most goals (51) out of the top six teams in the East. This type of defensive form doesn’t really make people think of a title-winning team and if they hope to push for a higher seed in the playoffs they’ll need to tighten things up at the back. Going up against the high scoring attack of New York, Saturday’s trip to Red Bull Arena will give the Crew defense a real test as they prep for playoff pressure.

New York Red Bulls

For the Red Bulls, the man to watch has to be last year’s Golden Boot winner Bradley Wright-Phillips. Last year, the Englishman put away 32 strikes, but hasn’t quite hit those heights this time around. For the current campaign, Wright-Phillips has scored just 14 times. While this mark isn’t as impressive as last year’s total, it still marks the highest tally for the Red Bull roster. When Wright-Phillips went up against the Crew defense way back in March, he played a part in both of the team’s goals scoring one and assisting the other. Right now, however, he’s in the midst of a three-game goal drought. Can he rediscover his goal-scoring form against the Crew?

Red Bull Arena has been a near fortress this season. Through 14 games, only three teams have managed to walk away with a victory. Jesse Marsch’s squad has accumulated a record of 9-2-3 at home this season. In those matches, the Red Bulls have also managed to keep six clean sheets. If the Red Bulls can continue to carry on this type of home form until the end of the season, they can earn home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Will the road to the MLS Cup run through the Big Apple?

As much as I like Kei Kamara, I just don’t think that their defense can handle Bradley Wright-Phillips and the Red Bulls attack. A victory Saturday would extend New York’s lead atop the conference while moving Columbus dangerously close to the playoff line. Final Score: Red Bulls 3-2 Columbus

 

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About the author: Collin Carpio

 

I am currently a senior at the University of Missouri in the Journalism School. I have been an avid follower of Manchester United since 2006 and of course I support the Stars and Stripes. Due to my St. Louis high school allegiances, I am a big supporter of Brad Davis and Sporting KC in MLS.

 

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