HANOVER, N.J. – Survive and advance.
It’s what the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs are all about, and the Red Bulls did just that by moving past a pesky D.C. United side 2-0 on aggregate. But the Supporters’ Shield winners find themselves walking a fine line, as four starters are one yellow card away from suspension heading into an Eastern Conference Championship clash with Columbus Crew SC.
Attackers Sacha Kljestan and Bradley Wright-Phillips are two players that will need to be cautious if they are to take part in Leg 2 at Red Bull Arena on Nov. 29, but all eyes will be on center backs Ronald Zubar and Matt Miazga, who have the unenviable task of matching up with MVP finalist Kei Kamara.
“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 told MLSsoccer.com after training on Thursday morning. “It’s a big challenge for our center backs to play against a guy like Kamara. He’s so physically gifted and he’s such a threat in a lot of different ways.”
- Get more New York Red Bulls news at NewYorkRedBulls.com
Both Miazga and Zubar managed to avoid going into referee Ted Unkel’s book last Sunday after earning cautions in Leg 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals series vs. D.C. United at RFK Stadium. In the return leg, Zubar and Miazga were rarely tested, thus avoided engaging in any risky challenges.
But Columbus poses a much different threat than a United side that left much to be desired in the attacking third, and it all starts with the Sierra Leone international that is Kamara.
“We know what he’s about,” Zubar said. “He’s a big guy, good on the ball, good in the air, and he scores goals. We have to look at him and be prepared to compete for 90 minutes and even more. He’s always a big presence in the box, so you have to be tight on him, but he’s an intelligent guy.”
Kamara is a one-of-a-kind athlete in MLS, but Zubar insists that, despite being on a yellow, the physical battle that is sure to ensue won’t bother him one bit.
“[D.C. United forward Alvaro] Saborio was also a guy that wanted to compete, and we fought all game,” he added. “We just have to make sure we’re aggressive, but in a good way.”
For goalkeeper Luis Robles, the task of organizing a backline in front of a potent attack will be a difficult one, but not much changes in terms of approach.
“It’s one of those things you need to be aware of, but it can’t effect the way that we play,” he said. “When you look at last game, Matt and Ronald were aware of the situation, but it didn’t alter the way they approached the game. We’re not going to ask them to be less aggressive.
"If they pick up a yellow, we’ll deal with it. The one thing we’ve shown as a team all year is that we have depth, and quality depth.”