Will New York lose for the first time this season?
Columbus Crew: The two bright spots in a otherwise dismal performance against DC United were substitutes Tommy Heinemann and Robbie Rogers. Heinemann used his 6 foot 4 inch frame to full advantage, nearly scoring off of a Eddie Gaven free-kick, and was a nuisance throughout his time on the pitch. The burly striker was the best forward on the pitch for the Crew on Saturday, and he could earn more playing time if his performances continue.
Robbie Rogers also impressed in his limited action, using his pace and dribbling to beat defenders, and also accounted for the lone Crew goal after winning a somewhat soft penalty and slotting home the spot kick to give the Crew a consolation goal. The young winger has been the subject of trade rumors and has also seen his playing time diminish, for both club and country. If he can gain confidence from this goal, look for the still young Rogers to re-earn a spot in the first XI.
New York Red Bulls: Of the myriad positives that came out of last weekend’s victory over the Seattle Sounders, the emergence of the Scandinavians, Jan Gunnar Solli and Teemu Tainio, was among the most impressive.
Tainio, who completed the most passes out of any player during the first round of MLS play, appeared on many Team of the Week lists in media that cover the league. The Finnish midfielder assisted on Juan Agudelo’s winner when he floated a left-footed ball over the Seattle backline to the streaking American international. Solli manned the rightback position seamlessly as he pacified nearly all of Seattle’s attacks on his flank.
Columbus Crew: It was a truly dreadful showing by the Crew at RFK. The team were misplacing passes more often than not, losing footing at the worst possible times and looking like a shadow of the 2008 team that did the league double. Even normally solid skipper Chad Marshall had a horrible game. The 3-1 scoreline could even be considered misleading, as the Crew rarely threatened, mostly off of set pieces, and looked likely to concede on every possession. The good news is that this was just the first game, and the season can't be lost on the first day.
New York Red Bulls: The Red Bulls may have excelled against the Sounders, but their starting eleven will be gutted for the Columbus match. Four starters – Tim Ream, Rafa Marquez, Dane Richards, and Juan Agudelo – and backup keeper Bouna Coundoul will be away with their respective national teams. Then there’s Thierry Henry, who won’t be stepping on the field against the Crew because he played ninety minutes on Saturday despite injuring his hamstring. There is one positive, though, as Hans Backe should have an indication of how deep his roster actually is after they leave Ohio.
Hans Backe | New York coach will test team's depth
Columbus Crew: Robert Warzycha's new look Crew debuted against DC United, but they failed to live up to expectations. Warzycha's 4-1-3-2 could not hold possession or stop United from possessing, and they did not appear likely to score on a quick break, which is bad news for Crew fans, as it looks like once again they must rely on set pieces to get goals. The front office has stressed patience, but without results to back up the off season roster changes, the supporters will likely become disgruntled.
New York Red Bulls: The configuration of Backe’s midfield should be noteworthy. Except for a brief failed attempt at a 4-5-1 in 2010, the Swede has implemented a standard four-man midfield. Last Saturday, Joel Lindpere and Richards flanked Mehdi Ballouchy and Tainio, who played more defensively. Tony Tchani will likely be inserted somewhere, but Backe may need to find a fifth midfielder with both of his first choice forwards away. While he has plenty of cover in the middle, Backe doesn’t seem to have a natural replacement for Richards on the right. Tainio, Tchani, Solli, or Ballouchy - speculation on who will appear out wide is merely conjecture.
The Black and Gold will be bolstered by the return of left back Shaun Francis on Saturday, The full back has missed all three competitive games due to a ankle injury, and was clearly missed, as the Crew conceded seven goals in those three games. Also helping the Crew's chances is the news that 7 first choice players for New York will miss the game for various national team friendlies. It is also the home opener for the Crew, so look for a different team on Saturday.
New York Red Bulls: Since losing to the Crew in the 2008 MLS Cup final, the Red Bulls have been defeated in three of their last four matches against Columbus. During the last few years, the Crew has been seen as the dominant power in the Eastern Conference, a title New York wishes to obtain. A victory over the rebuilding side would solidify their ascension.
Justin Henley: Everything has seemingly fallen the Crew's way this week. The absence of more than half of the Red Bulls starting 11 will no doubt have a large impact on the fixture. With this in mind, I look for the Crew get back to winning ways, winning comfortably 2-0.
Avery Raimondo: Before looking at the overlap between the MLS calendar and the international dates, a prediction for a Red Bull victory would probably have been accurate. However, the changes in the New York lineup make me think that Saturday will end in a scoreless draw.
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