Columbus Crew SC vs. New York Red Bulls | MLS Cup Playoffs Match Preview

MAPFRE Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
November 22, 2015 (Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs, Conference Championship Leg 1)
5 pm ET (ESPN, ESPN Deportes, MLS Live, Sirius XM 85)

When Columbus Crew SC and the New York Red Bulls last met in the MLS Cup Playoffs, it was MLS Cup 2008 -- and Columbus captured the league title with a 3-1 win, their third victory in three postseason meetings all-time. Now the teams -- the top two finishers in the Eastern Conference this season -- meet in the Eastern Conference Championship in the first leg at Mapfre Stadium. Crew SC survived an extra-time clash with the Montreal Impact in their conference semifinal series, winning the second leg 3-1 to advance 4-3 on aggregate. The Supporters' Shield-winning Red Bulls claimed a pair of 1-0 victories in dispatching rivals D.C. United in their conference semifinal.

REFEREE: Allen Chapman.
AR1 (bench): George Gansner; AR2 (opposite): Jeff Muschik; 4th: Mark Geiger

SUSPENDED: CLB: Gaston Sauro (caution accumulation; through Nov. 22)
WARNINGS (suspended next yellow card): CLB: Harrison Afful ... NYR: Matt Miazga; Ronald Zubar; Bradley Wright-Phillips; Sacha Kljestan

LEAGUE HEAD-TO-HEAD: CLB 26 wins, 77 goals; NYR 28 wins, 99 goals; Ties 9

2015 HEAD-TO-HEAD: CLB 1 win, 4 goals; NYR 2 wins, 5 goals; Ties 0
3/28: CLB 1, NYR 2 (Tchani 58 -- B Wright-Phillips 49; Grella 67)
7/4: CLB 2, NYR 1 (Finlay 33, 74 -- Abang 8)

MLS CUP PLAYOFFS: CLB 3 wins, 9 GF; NYR 0 wins, 5 GF; Ties 0


  • Crew SC won their first MLS Cup Playoffs game since 2010, ending a four-match postseason losing streak, in reaching the Eastern Conference Championship for a sixth time in club history. They will now meet the Red Bulls in a rematch of MLS Cup 2008 -- their lone appearance in the final.
  • "Our job is not finished and the only way we were going to put last season behind us is to get past this round. It's a big step for the team, as far as experience, there's not many guys who have played in a conference final and it's going to be a great experience for all of those guys. We are going to go in there looking for a victory and we want to go all the way," said Michael Parkhurst.
  • Kei Kamara netted two goals, his first goals in the MLS Cup Playoffs since his first ever MLS postseason game, in the 2008 Western Conference Semifinals when he netted for the Houston Dynamo vs. New York.
  • "He kept coming back, kept battling, kept helping the team in ways that you need your striker to do," said Crew SC boss Gregg Berhalter. "Although he missed a penalty I thought he was excellent. Like I said, he was battling for every ball and when you talk about these playoffs and you talk about big players needing to step up, Kei certainly stepped up."
  • Federico Higuain collected an assist in the second leg, and has a goal and an assist in the postseason. He has two goals and one assist for his MLS Cup Playoffs career in four games.
  • "I put a lot on Federico because he dropped in next to Wil [Trapp]. The work that they both did was outstanding; chasing balls down, chasing guys down and I thought they both did an excellent job. Pipa [Higuain] gave us the balance and possession as well as the ability to make the final pass. Wil gave us the work rate as the defense guy. They both did a good job, a really good job," Berhalter said.
  • Crew SC will be forced into a major change along the back line, as Gaston Sauro will serve a one-match ban after receiving a second yellow card. Sauro came into the back four for the final three matches of the regular season.
  • "We have a couple candidates," Berhalter said. "We have Emmanuel [Pogatetz] and we have Tyson [Wahl] and we have Sergio Campbell. Sergio will probably be less likely to feature, but I'd say the other two are possibilities." Said Parkhurst: "Tyson and I have played a bunch of games together and we've had a lot of experience in this league. He's a good pro and a good veteran, and I think everyone feels comfortable with him stepping in and playing in a big game."


  • The Red Bulls reached the Eastern Conference Championship after a second successive 1-0 shutout, the second time they've recorded multiple shutouts in a postseason. The first: 2008, when they lost in MLS Cup to Columbus.
  • "To get a shutout over two games is a testament to the whole team but definitely the back line in their ability to make it hard on the attacking players. I think for the whole series none of [Fabian] Espindola, [Alvaro] Saborio, or [Chris] Rolfe got in behind our defense to cause problems," said Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch.
  • The Red Bulls have never defeated Crew SC in an MLS Cup Playoffs match, dropping all three contests lifetime (including in the 2008 MLS final). "There will probably be more football in the two teams. ... I think that the way that they play and spread the field, and the way that our style kind of contrasts with their style, kind of sets up for a really good series," Marsch said.
  • Bradley Wright-Phillips netted the lone goal in the second leg, his first goal of this year's postseason, and his sixth in eight games in the MLS Cup Playoffs in his career. "As much as we felt confident in our ability to be aggressive at home and score goals, the playoffs don't always work like that. I think [the second leg] helped us mature for what the next series will be like," Marsch said.
  • After Damian Perrinelle was ruled out for the remainder of the season following the knee injury suffered in the first leg, Ronald Zubar stepped into central defense alongside Matt Miazga.
  • "We'll have the same approach we had last game, which is to be cautiously aggressive, or aggressively cautious, whichever term you want to use," Marsch said. "It's a big challenge for our center backs to play against a guy like [Kei] Kamara. Heís so physically gifted and he's such a threat in a lot of different ways."
  • Gonzalo Veron came off the substitutes' bench for a second successive match, and recorded his first career postseason assist.
  • "That whole play -- it was the whole series. Once it came back here, we just needed to get one play right. Unfortunately it took us until the very end of the game; if we could've found a way to get that one play right earlier then we would've made it easier on ourselves," Marsch said.


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