MLS Cup finalists a few years back, the Columbus Crew open the home portion of their season by playing host to the New York Red Bulls. The Crew started their 2011 season with a loss, falling 3-1 at D.C. United last weekend. The Red Bulls are coming off a season-opening victory, knocking off Seattle Sounders FC 1-0 at home.
REFEREE: Abbey Okulaja. SAR (bench): Jason Cullum; JAR (opposite): Brian Poeschel; 4th: Sorin Stoica MLS Career: 104 games; FC/gm: 27.3; Y/gm: 3.3; R: 16; pens: 24
INJURY REPORT: COLUMBUS CREW – OUT: MF Danny O'Rourke (L knee surgery); DF Shaun Francis (L hamstring strain); QUESTIONABLE: FW Emilio Renteria (L hamstring strain) ... NEW YORK RED BULLS – OUT: DF Chris Albright (knee surgery recovery); QUESTIONABLE: FW Thierry Henry (L hamstring strain); DF Jan Gunnar Solli (R hamstring strain); PROBABLE: DF Roy Miller (L hamstring strain)
ALL-TIME (50 meetings): Crew 23 wins, 61 goals ... Red Bulls 22 wins, 67 goals ... Ties 5
AT COLUMBUS (2 meetings): Crew 14 wins, 36 goals ... Red Bulls 9 wins, 33 goals ... Ties 2
RETURN MATCH: 6/4: New York Red Bulls vs. Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m.
LAST YEAR (MLS):
5/20: NY 1, CLB 3 (Tchani 81 – Gaven 35; Iro 39; Renteria 83) 7/17: CLB 2, NY 0 (Renteria 20; Carroll 48)
- The Crew swept the season series a year ago, their 3-1 win at Red Bull Arena on May 20 the first road win by either team since a New York victory at Crew Stadium, July 19. 2006.
- Before last year’s victory, you’d have to go back to April 12, 2003 to find a Crew victory at New York.
- The game is, of course, a rematch of MLS Cup 2008, won by the Crew, 3-1 at The Home Depot Center.
- Coaches record: Robert Warzycha vs. NY: P6 W4 L2 D0 ... Hans Backe v CLB: P2 W0 L2 D0
The Columbus Crew started off 2011 with a loss, falling 3-1 to D.C. United on Saturday evening at RFK Stadium.
- United took the lead six minutes into the second half. Jed Zayner’s pass found Josh Wolff toward the right side of the area and he hammered home a drive inside the near post.
- Then, some 10 minutes after coming onto the field for his MLS debut, Charlie Davies converted a penalty kick after Chris Pontius was tripped up in the penalty area. In the 77th minute, Davies hit for the second on his magical return to soccer, nicking a loose ball and skipping through the top of the box before rounding goalkeeper William Hesmer and slotting home
- The Crew pulled back a late goal when Robbie Rogers converted from the penalty spot.
- "That is going to be our worst game of the season because I don't think we can play any worse," Warzycha said to the Columbus Dispatch.
- The Crew had MLS debutantes at both fullback spots, with Sebastian Miranda and Rich Balchan starting. Dilly Duka was given the start in a wide midfield spot, with Emmanuel Ekpo pulling the strings in the center of the park.
- COLUMBUS CREW (4-1-3-2): William Hesmer - Sebastian Miranda, Chad Marshall, Julius James, Rich Balchan - Dejan Rusmir - Eddie Gaven, Emmanuel Ekpo, Dilly Duka (Robbie Rogers 66) - Jeff Cunningham (Tommy Heinemann 61), Andres Mendoza.
- Dilly Duka, who made two starts in his rookie season last year and played just 160 minutes, was given the start on the left wing ahead of Robbie Rogers.
- “I thought I had a good preseason,” the Generation adidas member said. “Whether I’m playing games or not, I’m young and I’ll cheat myself if I’m not working really hard every day because I can grow as a player.”
- Rogers, a U.S. international, made 20 appearances (17 starts) in league play last season, scoring one goal.
- “There is a competition,” Warzycha said. “If the guy is playing better, he has to be on the field. That’s why it happens. It happens to anybody, not only to Robbie. Dilly performed better. They both performed, but it’s for me to choose the guy at the moment who is a better fit for the team.”
- Rogers, who had scored one goal in each of the last two league seasons, took the penalty kick in the 79th minute after coming on as a 66th-minute substitute.
- “It says a lot,” Warzycha said. “He went for the ball and took it and scored. He had the guts to do that. Good for him. If Jeff [Cunningham] was on the field, he probably would have taken it. But Robbie was decisive. He got the ball and believed he would score and did it. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
- In a second change, Julius James was given the start in central defense ahead of Andy Iro, who had worn the captain’s armband during the preseason.
- “We’re playing a little bit differently, not necessarily better, but differently. We’re less predictable,” said technical director Brian Bliss. “It would be nice to go with three or four wins in the first seven games but we certainly don’t want to saddle the team with those responsibilities because it would be unfair.”
- Jeff Cunningham, still one goal behind retired D.C. United legend Jaime Moreno for the all-time MLS goalscoring crown, started up top ahead of Emilio Renteria, who was sidelined with a hamstring ailment.
- “The record, barring injuries, I’m going to reach it at some point,” Cunningham said. “My job is to come every day and compete, do the little things in training to prepare myself for the matches. Whatever playing time I get I have to make the most of it.”
NEW YORK RED BULLS
The New York Red Bulls got their 2011 campaign off on the right foot, getting their first victory of the season in a 1-0 win against Seattle Sounders FC on Saturday evening at Red Bull Arena.
- The game’s lone goal came with 20 minutes remaining. Juan Agudelo ran on to a long ball played out of midfield by Teemu Tainio, and the teenager held off a defender before curling a shot past Kasey Keller.
- Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe started Agudelo in attack alongside Thierry Henry. Greg Sutton was preferred to Bouna Coundoul in goal.
- NEW YORK RED BULLS (4-1-3-2): Greg Sutton - Jan Gunnar Solli, Tim Ream, Rafael Marquez, Roy Miller - Teemu Tainio - Dane Richards (Danleigh Borman 93+), Mehdi Ballouchy (Tony Tchani 68), Joel Lindpere - Juan Agudelo, Thierry Henry.
- While Agudelo had yet to hit for a goal in MLS play – he played all of 14 minutes in two appearances in the regular season before starting both of New York’s games in the MLS Cup Playoffs—he had scored for the U.S. national team.
- “I'm really young for this and really happy," said Agudelo. "The goal was special because I did what I was trying to do, curled it to the far post." Said Backe: "He surprised me today. We knew he has a decent game, that he's an athlete. But I was very happy with his decision-making."
- Thierry Henry, who scored two goals in 11 league matches after being acquired by the Red Bulls, saw a penalty kick saved by Sounders FC goalkeeper Kasey Keller in the first half.
- "I hate this, how forwards are judged only by goals," Henry said to the Daily News. "Goals will come, but we always know what our teammates are doing for the game."
- Backe will face some real selection problems for the trip to Columbus. Five first-choice performers—Agudelo, starting center backs Tim Ream and Rafael Marquez, winger Dane Richards and goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul – will all be away on international duty. It would have been six, but fullback Roy Miller turned down a call from Costa Rica.
- “We’re good enough (to win the championship), but if you look at the schedule this year it’s a very tricky season,” Backe said. “And if we are really unlucky, we can be without five to six players in 12 MLS games, and that’s a third of a season. I don’t think Barcelona has that depth. They will not win La Liga without six starters.”
- In addition, Henry was kept out of full training at the start of the week while dealing with a hamstring ailment. In the absence of both starting strikers, Luke Rodgers could be a candidate, but was an unused substitute in the Seattle match.
- “We have to wait and see how fit he is,” Backe said. “I just don’t know yet, but I imagine he should be available to us and would at least be on the bench, like he was on Saturday.”
- Greg Sutton started between the posts in place of Bouna Coundoul, who started 27 games in goal for the Red Bulls in 2010. Sutton made seven saves for the shutout; he had two in three MLS starts last year.
- “Obviously if we can keep winning and I do my job in goal, then hopefully the job will continue to be mine. To be able to get the confidence from the coach to go with me even when Bouna’s available, it’s nice to have,” Sutton said to The Star-Ledger. “We’ll see what happens.”