MLS Playoffs
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New York Red Bulls vs. Columbus Crew SC | MLS Cup Playoffs Match Preview

Red Bull Arena, Harrison, N.J.
November 29, 2015
Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs, Eastern Conference Championship Leg 2
7:30 pm ET (FS1, FOX Sports GO, FOX Deportes in US, MLS LIVE in Canada)

Home-field advantage in the playoffs: You can take advantage of it or waste it away. Columbus Crew SC took full advantage in their 2-0 first-leg win over the New York Red Bulls in front of a sold-out MAPFRE Stadium to move within one game of their first MLS Cup final since 2008. Crew SC midfielder Justin Meram wasted no time in scoring the fastest goal in MLS Cup Playoffs history with his goal 9 seconds into the match (watch here). Cedrick Mabwati, one of the catalysts in the Crew SC's second-leg win over the Montreal Impact in the Eastern Conference semifinals, came on in the 80th minute for Ethan Finlay and made a quick impact. In the 85th minute, Mabwati blew by Dax McCarty and Gonzalo Veron and forced Luis Robles into a diving save, only for Kei Kamara tap the loose ball into the back of the net to double the lead (watch here). The last time the Crew SC advanced to MLS Cup was in 2008, against the New York Red Bulls, when they won the title 3-1 at The Home Depot Center.

The Red Bulls will have some work ahead of them to make up the two-goal deficit at Red Bull Arena, but there's reason to think they can. The Red Bulls were 12-3-2 at home during the regular season. The Red Bulls scored two or more goals in 12 out of 17 regular-season home games and ended the year having scored at least two goals in nine consecutive home games. Forward Bradley Wright-Phillips was tied for second in the league with Kei Kamara for the most goals scored at home during the regular season with 13. In their one home game against Columbus on Oct. 3, New York defeated the Crew 2-1 behind goals from Bradley Wright-Phillips and Lloyd Sam. Allstate Goalkeeper of the Year Luis Robles will have to be in superb form at home, where he's posted seven shutouts at Red Bull Arena during the regular and postseason, if the Red Bulls are to advance to their first MLS Cup since that same 2008 final.

REFEREE: Baldomero Toledo.
AR1 (bench): Frank Anderson; AR2 (opposite): Greg Barkey; 4th: Sorin Stoica

WARNINGS (suspended next yellow card): NYR: Matt Miazga; Ronald Zubar; Bradley Wright-Phillips; Sacha Kljestan ... CLB: Harrison Afful, Tyson Wahl

LEAGUE HEAD-TO-HEAD: NYR 28 wins, 99 goals … CLB 26 wins, 77 goals … Ties 9
2015 HEAD-TO-HEAD: NYR 2 wins, 5 goals … CLB 1 win, 4 goals … Ties 0
AT RED BULL ARENA: 10/3: NYR 2, CLB 1 (Sam 12; B Wright-Phillips 21 -- Meram 9)
MLS CUP PLAYOFFS: CLB 4 wins, 11 GF ... NYR 0 wins, 5 GF ... Ties 0.


  • The Red Bulls return home needing to overturn a two-goal deficit after the first-leg defeat -- something which has been done only twice in a two-leg tie in MLS history (last 2004, KC v SJ).
  • “Pretty incredible that we dig a hole like that nine seconds into the game. Very disappointing. But, actually, our response for the rest of the half and then even our push in the second half was all pretty good. Then, obviously, to give up a goal late, really, now we’ve dug ourselves a hole,” said Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch.
  • The last time a team overcame a two-goal deficit of any sort came in the 2013 East semifinals, when the Red Bulls took a 2-0 lead at the Houston Dynamo -- only for Houston to come back for a 2-2 first-leg draw, then with 2-1 at Red Bull Arena for a 4-3 victory on aggregate.
  • “We weren’t dangerous enough. But I think that there’s still a lot to play for here. ... This series isn’t over. Credit to Columbus for getting a 2-0 lead on their home turf. That’s what they’re supposed to do and now it’s up to us to go back to Red Bull Arena and push the game there,” Marsch said.
  • The Red Bulls were also shut out at the attacking end for the first time since back-to-back games May 15-24 -- the only times they were blanked offensively during the league campaign.
  • “Columbus defended very well, give them some credit for that, but we weren’t as sharp on the day with our passing, with our movement, with the way that we normally attack, the chance creation wasn’t there. We had a decent couple of opportunities, but obviously we are going to have to be more dangerous when we go back to Red Bull Arena,” said Dax McCarty.
  • The opening goal was the first conceded by the Red Bulls in the playoffs, after back-to-back shutouts vs. D.C. United in the conference semifinals.
  • “I think with them scoring off that play in the first half in the first minute, it sort of exaggerates their direct play. I still felt that they did their best to play out of the back, we did our best to complicate the issue, but there were moments where they played forward ... When we take a step back and look at the game, there were moments where we played quite well and moments where we had the run of play and I felt like we looked the better team,” Marsch said.


  • Crew SC got off to a dream start -- the Justin Meram goal after 9 seconds was the fastest in MLS Cup Playoffs history. The only other goal scored in the first minute in MLS postseason history also was netted by a Crew player: Adrian Paz, Sept. 26, 1996, vs. Tampa Bay (26 seconds).
  • “It all depends on winning the first ball and Kei [Kamara] did a fantastic job of that and Ethan [Finlay] followed it up and Justin [Meram] running as well. Itís not something that is going to work all the time but it can be effective in creating pressure early in a game,” Crew SC head coach Gregg Berhalter said.
  • Columbus is still undefeated all-time in the playoffs vs. the Red Bulls, with four victories in four matches (and an 11-5 goal differential).
  • “I’m thrilled with the effort of the guys and at times I think we played really good soccer. It just becomes challenging when the speed is that high, the intensity is that high, the spaces are so small and then you have the fact that they’re chasing the game, which adds to it. But I think we managed the game really well,” said Berhalter.
  • Kei Kamara netted his third goal in the postseason, both over the last two matches, his first goals in the MLS Cup Playoffs since 2008 (he now has four playoff goals in 10 career matches).
  • “This series is not over, trust me. They’re going to come out hot in Harrison. It’s going to be a tough game. We’re going to do our best to try to score a goal. We’ve been scoring away from home, virtually, all year. So, we’re going to try and do that again and put some pressure on them,” Berhalter said.
  • With Gaston Sauro suspended, Tyson Wahl came into central defense for the only change in the Crew SC team, and the club came through with a third clean sheet over the last five matches in all competitions.
  • “He’s the guy that played a role midseason and did a good job and then lost his spot to Gaston. He doesn’t complain, he’s always there for the team, he always trains hard and is always focused. He’s a guy that leads by example and you need players like that, Berhalter said. When his number was called he did a great job so I’m really proud of his performance,” Berhalter said. Said Meram: “The first goal was not to let them get an away goal. We know how that plays and how big that is, and to get two goals at home, we put ourselves in a good spot but playing in New York is never easy.”


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New York Red BullsColumbus Crew SC
37Games Played37
45Goals Conceded56
195Shots on Target199
470Fouls committed438
492Fouls suffered387

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