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Eastern Conference Championship

Preview: Conference foes New York, Columbus clash

New York Red Bulls vs. Columbus Crew

Photo Credit: 
Getty Images

The New York Red Bulls and Columbus Crew meet for the second time this season when they face off Saturday evening at Red Bull Arena. The Red Bulls have played to three consecutive draws, last a 1-1 tie at Vancouver Whitecaps FC last Saturday. The Crew are coming off a wild draw of their own, a six-goal thriller at home against Chivas USA. The teams played to a scoreless draw in March in Columbus.

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REFEREE: Niko Bratsis. SAR (bench): Craig Lowry; JAR (opposite): Claudio Badea; 4th: Jorge Gonzalez MLS Career: 2 games; FC/gm: 24.0; Y/gm: 3.0; R: 0; pens: 0

INJURY REPORT: NEW YORK RED BULLS – OUT: MF Carl Robinson (R knee contusion); DF Chris Albright (hernia surgery) …
COLUMBUS CREW – OUT: DF Josh Williams (R hip labral tear); MF Danny O'Rourke (L knee surgery); FW Santiago Prim (R ankle sprain); MF Leandro Griffit (abdominal strain); DOUBTFUL: MF Cole Grossman (concussion); PROBABLE: MF Dilly Duka (L ankle sprain)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: NY: Rafael Marquez (Mexico); Dane Richards (Jamaica); Juan Agudelo, Tim Ream (USA); Dwayne De Rosario (Canada); Bouna Coundoul (Senegal) … CLB: Robbie Rogers (USA)
SUSPENDED: none
WARNINGS:
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: CLB: Julius James
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: NY: Luke Rodgers … CLB: Kevin Burns

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (51 meetings): Red Bulls 22 wins, 67 goals … Crew 23 wins, 61 goals … Ties 6
AT NEW YORK (25 meetings): Red Bulls 13 wins, 34 goals …Crew 9 wins, 25 goals … Ties 3
•    The teams are playing for the second time this season, after the Red Bulls came away from Crew Stadium with a point in a scoreless draw March 26.
•    The Crew swept the season series a year ago, their 3-1 win at Red Bull Arena on May 20 the first road win by either team since a New York victory at Crew Stadium, July 19. 2006.
•    Before last year’s victory, you’d have to go back to April 12, 2003 to find a Crew victory at New York.
•    The game is a rematch of MLS Cup 2008, won by the Crew, 3-1 at The Home Depot Center.
•    Coaches record: Hans Backe v CLB: P3 W0 L2 D1 … Robert Warzycha vs. NY: P7 W4 L2 D1

LAST MEETING (MLS):
3/26: CLB 0, NY 0
•    Facing a makeshift Red Bulls side forced to make six changes through international duty and injury, Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer was called upon to make two saves.
•    Red Bulls goalkeeper Alex Horwath, who signed with the club Friday, made his MLS debut between the posts and recorded five saves.
•    COLUMBUS CREW (4-2-3-1): William Hesmer - Rich Balchan, Julius James, Chad Marshall, Sebastian Miranda - Kevin Burns, Dejan Rusmir (Dilly Duka 56) - Eddie Gaven (Tommy Heinemann 73), Emmanuel Ekpo, Robbie Rogers (Bernardo Anor 64) - Andres Mendoza
•    NEW YORK RED BULLS (4-1-3-2): Alex Horwath – Jan Gunnar Solli, Carlos Mendes, Stephen Keel, Roy Miller – Teemu Tainio – Tony Tchani, Joel Lindpere, Danleigh Borman – Mehdi Ballouchy, Luke Rodgers (Corey Hertzog 84)

NEW YORK RED BULLS
The New York Red Bulls shared the points for a third consecutive match, this time a 1-1 result with Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Saturday afternoon at Empire Field. The Red Bulls have 18 points from 12 games, sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference.

LAST MATCH
•    The teams traded goals 10 minutes apart in the first half. A lovely give-and-go between Davide Chiumiento and Camilo ended with the Brazilian being taken down in the box by New York right back Carlos Mendes, and Eric Hassli buried the ensuing spot kick.
•    But the Red Bulls found an equalizer as Roy Miller lofted a crossfield pass to Jan Gunnar Solli, whose fed Rodgers for a shot on the turn past Whitecaps FC 'keeper Jay Nolly.
•    Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe made two changes to the team that played to a 2-2 draw with the Colorado Rapids at Red Bull Arena. Stephen Keel and Juan Agudelo came into the team for Mehdi Ballouchy and Thierry Henry.
•    NEW YORK RED BULLS--Greg Sutton - Carlos Mendes (Matt Kassel 70), Tim Ream, Stephen Keel, Roy Miller - Teemu Tainio - Jan Gunnar Solli, Joel Lindpere, Juan Agudelo - Dwayne De Rosario (Corey Hertzog 92+), Luke Rodgers (Austin da Luz 70).

TEAM NEWS
•    Already missing two players to international duty, the Red Bulls played two more starters short with Mehdi Ballouchy unable to enter Canada with visa issues and Thierry Henry missing a second match out of three with a knee injury.
•    “There has to be some excuses, we’re missing a lot of players, the guys who definitely can make a difference,” Red Bulls coach Hans Backe said. “That’s why we also have to be pretty satisfied with getting points on the road.”
•    With the lineup absence, Backe made a number of tactical shifts, starting Dwayne De Rosario at forward and Juan Agudelo at left midfield, with Jan Gunnar Solli on the right side of midfield and Carlos Mendes at right back.
•    “Overall, we could have lost it, we could have won it, and I think for the young guys coming in, [it’s good] when you’re not having the best of days and you can tie games instead of losing,” Backe said.
•    Mendes was forced off in the second half to an injury, which allowed Matt Kassel to come in at right back in his professional debut. Mendes could still be available for the Crew match.
•    “I hope, because now with Marquez and Ream out for the Gold Cup, we need Mendes and Keel to play center back so hopefully he can recover with that kind of injury,” Backe said. “Otherwise, we are in trouble with three center backs gone.”
•    Kassel, a Red Bull Academy product, was joined by 2010 SuperDraft selection Austin da Luz in making their professional debut.
•    “It’s a great chance for young guys to prove themselves,” Kassel said. “This is a chance for people to show coach and the coaching staff what we can do.”
•    Greg Sutton made a third consecutive start in goal for the Red Bulls, and with goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul called into the Senegal national team for its 2012 African Nations Cup qualifier against Cameroon in Yaounde, he will likely start against Columbus.
•    “Greg has done very good for us. He’s almost 100 per cent; I think this is third game since he started in Houston,” Backe said. “The players feel safe, they are comfortable with him. He has good feet; he is good against teams with a lot of crosses and set plays. He has done very well for us.”
•    After going three games without a goal, Luke Rodgers has once again scored in back-to-back games. “He’s done very well here for us,” Backe said. “The way he plays, the constant, constant movement and the way he’s scoring, it has been a perfect fit for us so far this season.”

COLUMBUS CREW
The Columbus Crew three times came back from a goal down before settling for a 3-3 draw with Chivas USA on Saturday evening at Columbus Crew Stadium. The Crew have 14 points from 11 games on the season, in fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

LAST MATCH
•    Chivas USA took the lead after just four minutes, as Justin Braun flighted a ball from the left side of the box and Nick LaBrocca side-footed home a volley from close range. But the Crew drew even nine minutes later, Emmanuel Ekpo streaking down the center of the park before laying off to Andres Mendoza to stroke home from inside the area.
•    The visitors regained the lead in the 37th minute when defender Andrew Boyens headed home a corner kick, but the Crew again pulled level in the 52nd when Mendoza lashed home a second from the edge of the box after picking off an errant pass in midfield.
•    Jorge Flores again gave Chivas a lead in the 57th minute, running onto a defense-splitting pass from Ben Zemanski and beating goalkeeper William Hesmer. But Ekpo again brought the Crew, waiting on a deflection before turning and hammering a rising shot into the goal from the left side of the box.
•    Crew head coach Robert Warzycha made two changes to the team that fell 1-0 to the Portland Timbers at Jeld-Wen Field. Josh Gardner came in for Dejan Rusmir in midfield, and Andres Mendoza replaced the injured Emilio Renteria up top.
•    COLUMBUS CREW (4-4-2): William Hesmer - Sebastian Miranda, Chad Marshall, Julius James, Rich Balchan - Robbie Rogers, Emmanuel Ekpo, Eddie Gaven (Andy Iro 94+), Josh Gardner - Tommy Heinemann (Justin Meram 76), Andres Mendoza (Jeff Cunningham 70).

TEAM NEWS
•    With forward Emilio Rentería out indefinitely after suffering a left quadriceps strain against Portland, Andres Mendoza returned to the Crew starting lineup for the first time since April 1 and scored two goals, his first career two-goal game in MLS.
•    Mendoza was partnered with Tommy Heinemann, making his second consecutive start.
•    “They were busy. They had some chances, and they could have scored even more goals. I was very pleased with their performance today,” Warzycha said. “Then (Justin) Meram and (Jeff) Cunningham also created chances when they came in.
•    The Crew scored a goal in the first half for the first time this season, after an MLS-record 10 games to start a season without a first-half goal. The first-half goal snapped a 219-minute goalless drought; the three goals were a season-high for Columbus, which entered the game with an MLS-low eight goals on the year.
•    “We gave up three goals. The ones in first half, especially, could have been avoided. When you give up three at home you’re going to be a little bit disappointed,” Warzycha said. “But we were able to step up in the second half, everybody on the field, and create some chances and score some goals.”
•    Emmanuel Ekpo scored his first goal since May 9, 2009, netting the late equalizer against Chivas. Earlier in the game he set up the first Crew goal, his first assist since May 26, 2009; it was the first time in his 80 MLS appearances he’d been involved in more than one goal in a game.
•    “We’ve been waiting a long time for something like this. I think his game in Portland (last week) was very good, and today he was very active and had a goal and an assist, which I think we can build on right now,” Warzycha said.
•    Ekpo started the game in a deep-lying central midfield role, behind Eddie Gaven. “At the start of the game I played as a holding midfielder when I had the assist, then I knew I pretty much had an attacking ability to get the ball forward because we were really dangerous,” Ekpo said.
•    Warzycha also started Josh Gardner on the left side of midfield, with Robbie Rogers shifting to the right. But that lasted 45 minutes; in his only other start, April 30 vs. Vancouver, Gardner played left back. “That didn’t work,” Warzycha said. “There was a little bit of confusion.”
•    After the break, Gardner moved back to left back and Rich Balchan went from left back to holding midfielder. “Rich and I need to communicate a little bit more,” Gardner said. “It’s pretty loud, so we have to be louder when we’re yelling out directions.”