Friday, November 20, 2015

Crew SC vs. Red Bulls Sunday

MLS Cup Playoffs kick up here again on November 22nd. After a long international break, it's the Conference Finals portion of the event. If you'll turn to the back cover of the playbill you were given when you entered you will see a description of this event. It's a two-legged series, winner advances on aggregate goals, away goals serve as tie breakers.

November 22, 2015
Columbus Crew SC vs. NY Red Bulls
MAPFRE Stadium, 5:00 PM on ESPN

Portland Timbers vs. FC Dallas
Providence Stadium, 7:30 PM EST on FS1

The reverse fixtures happen a full week later on November 29th. Times are TBD.


Having played three times already, these two teams are very familiar with the 2015 versions of themselves (does that make sense?). Each match finished 2-1, NY winning two of three. They've been tightly matched affairs. Each very similar in style of play as well as general statistics.

It's pretty amazing what NY manager Jesse Marsch has done as far as consistency with his team. From the start of the year to the end. The story on the Crew SC side is a little different in that the team lost its footing early in the year when LB Hernan Grana left the team abruptly. Gregg Berhalter's style of play didn't change, but the team had to scramble a bit to find an adequate replacement.

The match will look and feel similar to the last time these two lined up in early October. It started with a flurry of goals but eventually settled into a tight match. Connor Lade and Mike Grella were easily able to handle the speedy Ethan Finlay. Once they were up, it forced Crew SC into their default (and less effective) mode of just pumping crosses into the box (27!).

What ended up happening early in that game will be the key to this one: Justin Meram. NY will undoubtedly work to negate Ethan Finlay's runs and cut off the supply to Kei Kamara. No other team in MLS relied as much on two attacking players as the Crew with those guys. This leaves the match up to Meram and his ability with the ball to get off shots. He'll be coming off a long trip to Asia for the Iraqi national team so it's difficult to predict exactly where he'll be in body, but I think his mind will be right. He's improved a great deal there this year (from my perspective).

Be it Meram, Kamara or Finlay on the Crew side or Wright-Phillips, Grella and Sam with NY... this game will be about finishing big opportunities.

Here are the averages from the three games this year, two of these games were played in Columbus:

Shots - Crew 15, NY 12
On Target - 5, 5
Goals - 1.3, 1.7
Passing - 74%, 75%
Possession - 50%, 50%


Contrary to what you might think, Columbus stays on the mild side of freezing until the end of they year. By that, I mean 40-ish when the sun is out. Scheduling isn't doing the Crew any favors though. The game start on Sunday means that the 2nd half is going to get cold. By 6 PM it will be below freezing.

To those going - bundle up, but don't fret. Your reward will be provided no matter the result. Skies will be clear, a beautiful late Autumn sunset awaits.

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