New York Red Bulls vs. Columbus Crew SC | 2018 Conference Semifinal Preview

ExLink - 11/11/18 - RBNYvCLB

New York Red Bulls vs. Columbus Crew SC
Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs — Conference Semifinals, Second Leg
Red Bull Arena — Harrison
November 11 — 7:30 pm ET

When they upset the Supporters’ Shield champions in 2015, Columbus Crew SC defeated the New York Red Bulls in the opening leg of the Eastern Conference finals at MAPFRE Stadium en route to a 2-1 aggregate win.

Crew SC are hoping to follow a similar script Sunday night when they take a 1-0 lead into the second leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at Red Bull Arena.

With his team on short rest following a penalty-kick shootout win over D.C. United in the Knockout Round, Columbus coach Gregg Berhalter rolled the dice and left Federico Higuain out of his starting XI in the opening leg, inserting the Argentine playmaker following a scoreless first half.

Higuain, who scored twice against D.C. United, was at the center of the match’s pivotal moment, playing Gyasi Zardes into space with a clever flick before Zardes finished low in the 61st minute.

The Red Bulls had a golden chance to equalize at the death, but Zack Steffen dived to his left to get a hand on Bradley Wright-Phillips’ glancing header at the back post.

Crew SC have won all three of the previous MLS Cup playoff meetings between the MLS originals. The Red Bulls are winless in their last four meetings against Crew SC (3L-1D). New York’s last win over Columbus was in April, 2017, a 2-0 result at home.

New York Red Bulls

A week removed from celebrating a third Supporters’ Shield title in six years, the Red Bulls find themselves on the brink of elimination after losing at MAPFRE Stadium on Sunday.

Neither team had many scoring chances, but Crew SC capitalized on theirs and the Red Bulls were left to lament a lack of sharpness in the attacking third. While many of their fans are freaking out on social media, the Red Bulls are as calm as can be heading into the second leg at Red Bull Arena, where the club was 14-2-1 during the regular season.

“There’s a lot of belief in what we’re doing here from within these walls, especially at home,” Chris Armas said. “It’s a confident group we have and it remains confident. That comes from successes this year in the Champions League and previous playoff experiences that have made us feel we’re ready for this.”

  • Suspended: None
  • Suspended after next caution: M - Sean Davis
  • International duty: None
  • Injury Report: OUT: M - Florian Valot (torn left ACL), D - Kyle Duncan (torn right ACL), M - Vincent Bezecourt (right MCL surgery), M - Ben Mines (broken left clavicle surgery)

Projected Starting XI
(4-2-3-1, right to left)
GK: Luis Robles — Michael Murillo, Tim Parker, Aaron Long, Kemar Lawrence — Tyler Adams, Sean Davis — Alex Muyl, Kaku, Danny Royer — Bradley Wright-Phillips

  • Notes: Kaku had four chances created in the first leg, while the rest of the team combined to create one. Kaku averaged 2.0 chances created per game during the regular season. … Since the beginning of May, the Red Bulls are 11W-1L-1D at home while averaging 1.9 goals per game. Their 11 wins are the second most over that span, while their nine clean sheets are two more than any other team.

Columbus Crew SC

The opening leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals went about as well as possible for Crew SC, who earned a win and didn’t concede an away goal at MAPFRE Stadium on Sunday.

Now, Columbus head to Red Bull Arena looking to reach the Eastern Conference finals for a second straight year. And Crew SC do so with the confidence of having been one of only two teams to earn a win at Red Bull Arena this year.

“I think we’re doing well. There’s still things we can improve on. I think when I look at last game, we can improve on a number of areas and we have to use this week to focus on that,” Berhalter said. “The mindset of the guys has been great, the attitude has been fantastic and we need to use that to keep getting better.”

  • Suspended: None
  • Suspended after next caution: M - Federico Higuain, M - Eduardo Sosa, D - Milton Valenzuela
  • International duty: None
  • Injury Report: OUT: M - Mike Grella (left knee meniscectomy), M - Niko Hansen (right ankle)

Projected Starting XI
(4-4-2, right to left)
GK: Zack Steffen — Harrison Afful, Jonathan Mensah, Gaston Sauro, Milton Valenzuela — Pedro Santos, Artur, Wil Trapp, Justin Meram — Gyasi Zardes, Patrick Mullins

  • Notes: Wil Trapp had five interceptions in the first leg, tied for the second most of any Columbus player this season. … Crew SC’s win over D.C. United in penalty kicks snapped a six-game skid on the road (4L-2D). Columbus allowed multiple goals in four of those six games.

All-Time Series (Regular Season)


Referee: Alan Kelly
Assistant Referees: Jason White, Eric Weisbrod
4th Official: Baldomero Toledo
VAR: Allen Chapman