New York Red Bulls vs. Columbus Crew SC | 2017 MLS Match Preview
New York Red Bulls vs. Columbus Crew SC
2017 MLS Match Preview
Red Bull Arena – Harrison, N.J.
Saturday, April 22 – 7:30 pm ET
WATCH: MLS Live
Columbus are sitting on top of the Eastern Conference thanks mostly to their ability to take advantage of a home-heavy early schedule. The Red Bulls are just three points back, and have just started their home-heavy portion on the slate. These are two of the the favorites in the East, and every point matters.
New York Red Bulls
It's been a somewhat unexpected year of transition for a RBNY team that entered the season on a long unbeaten run and with the league's most prolific goalscorer (Bradley Wright-Phillips) and set-up man (Sacha Kljestan). But there've been a spate of early injuries, major bumps in the road, a formation shift to the 4-2-2-2 and then back to the 4-2-3-1, and a few gaffes from the normally ultra-reliable Luis Robles.
And in spite of all that, RBNY are in much better shape than they were at this time last season. They're fifth in the East but just three points off Crew SC's pace at the top, and have started to look more like their old selves the past two weeks, even if open-play finishing still isn't up to snuff.
That last bit is the big question. BWP gets hot around now every year, but it remains to be seen which of the wingers – Homegrown youngsters Alex Muyl and Derrick Etienne, Jr., and Austrian import Daniel Royer have gotten most of the run with Mike Grella and Gonzalo Veron injured – can help pick up the slack.
- Suspended: none
- Int'l Duty: none
- Injury Report: OUT: D - Gideon Baah (broken leg - out for season); F - Gonzalo Veron (hamstring injury); M - Mike Grella (knee injury)
Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Luis Robles – Sal Zizzo, Aurelien Collin, Aaron Long, Kemar Lawrence – Felipe, Tyler Adams – Alex Muyl, Sacha Kljestan, Daniel Royer – Bradley Wright-Phillips
Notes: New York are unbeaten in 17 consecutive regular season home games (14W-3D). They have kept 11 clean sheets on that run, including three straight... Kljestan leads the league with 25 chances created so far this year. Diego Valeri (20) is the only other player to have 20 or more chances created so far this year.
Columbus Crew SC
Federico Higuain has found the fountain of youth. After an injury-plagued 2016 season and a slow start to 2017, the Argentinean enganche has come alive with a goal and four assists in his last four starts. Along with winger Justin Meram and forward Ola Kamara, they've been the driving force at the heart of one of the league's most potent attacks.
The defense, meanwhile, is coming around after some early-season hiccups, and it has conceded just four goals in Columbus' last five outings as they've gone 4-1-0. Young 'keeper Zack Steffen has had some hiccups but has also made some spectacular saves, while new box-to-box midfielder Artur and rookie center back Alex Crognale have both played above expectations.
- Suspended: none
- Int'l Duty: none
- Injury Report: OUT: D - Gaston Sauro (knee injury, out for season); QUESTIONABLE: D - Jonathan Mensah (hamstring strain); GK - Brad Stuver (right elbow strain); M - Dilly Duka (calf contusion) F - Ola Kamara (foot injury)
Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Zack Steffen – Harrison Afful, Alex Crognale, Nicolai Naess, Jukka Raitala – Wil Trapp, Artur – Niko Hansen, Federico Higuain, Justin Meram – Ola Kamara
Notes: Columbus have only one win in their last seven regular-season visits to the Red Bulls (4L-2D), though they have scored in all seven of those games... Higuain has four assists in his last three games, after recording just one helper in his previous 17 outings.
- Overall: New York 29 wins (93 goals)... Columbus 26 wins (80 goals)... 10 ties
- At New York: New York 17 wins (50 goals)... Columbus 10 wins (36 goals)... 5 ties
- Referee: Jorge Gonzalez
- Assistant Referees: Jeff Muschik, Giann Facchini
- Fourth Official: Sorin Stoica