Next up on our MLS preview list is the New York Red Bulls visit to Columbus to take on the crew. The Red Bulls come into the game fresh off the back of beating Club Atletico Pantoja 5-0 on aggregate in the CONCACAF Champions League, so they will be on a high.
Last season saw the Red Bulls finish top of the Eastern conference in what was a very impressive regular season. Their post season started in the same fashion as they brushed aside this weeks opponents, Columbus, in the conference semi-finals. However, it didn’t last much longer than that as they fell 3-1 on aggregate to Atlanta in the conference final.
As mentioned, the Crew also reached the play offs last season – finishing fifth in the East. They squeezed past DC United in the first knockout round before eventually being knocked out by the Red Bulls. If you’re a Columbus Crew fan then I’d imagine you’ll be desperate for a little bit of revenge when the Red Bulls visit MAPFRE Stadium on Saturday evening.
The two sides played each other four times in total last season with two games in the regular season and then that two-legged play-off tie. The first leg off the play-off tie saw Columbus pick up a 1-0 win before being hammered 3-0 in the reverse leg. In the regular season, they drew 1-1 in Ohio before Columbus edged a five goal thriller in New York.
This upcoming season is a new era for Columbus as they welcome in not only a new head coach, but a new owner too. Their new owners are Dee and Jimmy Haslam – notably, Jimmy owns one of Ohio’s two NFL teams, Cleveland Browns. New head coach Caleb Porter will be hoping to press on following a decent showing last term, but all signs point towards the Crew sliding down the table a few places this time around.
Pre-season saw Columbus play a total of five games, remaining undefeated throughout. They picked up impressive wins against LAFC and Cincinnati as well as draws against Vissel Kobe, Chicago Fire and Charleston Battery. The Red Bulls have been busy, playing nine games since January 26th. Seven of those games were friendly matches – They lost to both Philadelphia Union and Dallas, drew with Orlando and Portland before beating Elfsborg and Phoenix Rising twice. As stated earlier, the other two games were the two legs of their CONCACAF Champions League tie against Dominican side Atletico Pantoja. They won 2-0 and 3-0 to advance to the quarter-finals of the competition.
In terms of injury news, it looks like New York will be without Ryan Meara after he missed their Champions League fixture this week. Meanwhile, the only notable absentee for Columbus is Milton Valenzuela who is out for the season with an ACL injury.
Prediction: I can see this being another tight game but I think New York will have enough to see of Columbus. I’m going to go for 2-0 Red Bulls.