The New York Red Bulls are in Columbus today to take on the Eastern Conference-leading Columbus Crew tonight at Crew Stadium (7pm, ESPN2).
The match is crucial for both teams as they jockey for position in the tough East. Columbus is currently three points ahead of New England at the top of the Eastern Conference, but will face the Revs in its next match after facing the Red Bulls. A loss or tie to the Red Bulls could help New England catch the Crew.
The Red Bulls are currently in fourth place in the East, two points ahead of D.C. United and three points behind the Chicago Fire. New York has lost just once in its past eight matches (4-1-3) after being strengthed by the addition of several new faces.
The match is likely to be missing the two players who have arguably been the best players on their respective teams this season. Crew playmkaker Guillermo Barros Schelotto is questionable with a left hamstring strain while Red Bulls left winger Dave Van Den Bergh is set to have sports hernia surgery that will sideline him between two to three weeks.
So how will the absences impact each team? Schelotto’s absence would put a major dent in the Crew’s attack, especially if attacking midfielder Brad Evans is also unable to play. Both players missed Columbus’ 1-1 tie vs. Toronto FC last week and it is clear that the Crew struggle to generate chances without Schelotto and even moreso without Schelotto and Evans.
Here is a look at what the Crew’s lineup might look like if neither can play:
If Evans or Schelotto can go, you could expect Schelotto replacing Noonan and Evans replacing Miglioranzi, which would give the Crew a very attack-minded lineup.
What will the Red Bulls do without Van Den Bergh? Here is the lineup you could see from them tonight:
This is very likely to be the lineup tonight, though having Wolyniec in for Magee is a possibility. I see Magee getting the nod though. That said, if Wolyniec does start, it would be a very interesting match-up between Wolyniec and Danny O’Rourke, assuming Sigi Schmid doesn’t turn to rookie Andy Iro tonight.
What are the key match-ups? Here are four:
Dane Richards vs. Gino Padula– Richards is coming off a few disappointing performances but even in his bad games he still does things to trouble defenses. His speed could be a problem for Padula, who hasn’t had the best season for Columbus.
Jorge Rojas vs. Frankie Hejduk– Hejduk is just the type of player to pester Rojas and limit his impact. Rojas has been in a bad run of form lately (between Venezuela and the Red Bulls) but will be needed by the Red Bulls attack tonight.
Chad Marshall vs. Juan Pablo Angel– The best match-up of the night is this one. Marshall combines size, strength and athleticism and should give Angel all he can handle. The thing is Angel is so good that even if Marshall plays well it could be tough to keep Angel off the scoreboard. The Crew need Marshall to handle Angel by himself so they can focus on the Red Bull’s wingers and Mike Magee.
Gabriel Cichero vs. Alejandro Moreno– These Venezuelan national team players should provide us with a very entertaining match-up. Moreno is relentless and skillful while Cichero is fast, fearless and also good in generating the attack from the back.
If Schelotto plays, look for Cichero and Juan Pietravallo to take turns making things difficult for him. This is another reason Brad Evans is key for the Crew. If Evans plays, the Red Bulls have to pay some attention to him. Without Evans, the Red Bulls defense can zero in on Schelotto. If neither play, it will be a much easier night for the Red Bulls defense.
It’s poll time. What do you see happening tonight?
I will be providing a running commentary during the match so check back in tonight for that. For now, share your thoughts on tonight’s match in the comments section below.