Columbus (4-0-2; 14 points; 2nd place Eastern Conference) vs. New York (5-3-0); 15 points; 1st place Eastern Conference) at Red Bull Arena, Harrison, N.J.
What's at stake?
With a win, Columbus can dethrone New York and claim the top spot in the East. With two games in hand, three points at Red Bull Arena would be huge for Columbus in their attempt at a third straight conference championship. Columbus faces a stretch without several key stars due to the World Cup, so they need a win here.
New York beat then-defending champs Columbus by the minimum differential when Dane Richards scored in the 63rd minute last August at Giants Stadium. The rivals played an ugly one, with three yellow cards shown to each team. A week earlier, New York had beaten FC Dallas for their first win in more than three months. The win over the Crew marked the first time the Red Bulls had won consecutive games in league play since August of 2008.
Heroes & Villains ...
Injuries vs. Call-ups & Suspensions: It was just two weeks ago that New York head coach Hans Backe said that he was pleased to have so many outfield players fit and healthy. Now, with Ibrahim Salou likely out at least two weeks, Brian Nielsen dinged up, continued knee problems for Carl Robinsion and Joel Lindpere straining his groin, the Red Bulls are down a few starters. Columbus have their own depth issues, with national team call-ups for the World Cup and Guillermo Barros Schelotto suspended. Whoever has the strongest bench might just win.
Lenhart vs. Petke: Without Schelotto, the only player on the team two break the two-goal barrier with four to his name, the team will look for increased production from Steven Lenhart up top. With good size and deceptive speed on and off the ball, Lenhart could be a handful for the Red Bulls’ back line. Playing in his 300th league game on Thursday night, it will be Mike Petke’s responsibility to organize the defense. Given the lack of cohesion for the New York offense as of late, the
defense will need to play superb soccer.
Stat that makes you go, “Hmm …”
Despite last week’s disappointing loss to Seattle at home, New York is 3-1 at Red Bull Arena. Last year, it took New York until August 23 to notch their third home win.
He said it
“We really believe in each other and what we can do. There isn’t any panic, we know what we’re capable of and what we need to do. It wasn’t an accident that we won five games so far this season.” – Red Bulls’ defender Mike Petke to MLSsoccer.com after New York's second consecutive loss.