After watching the New York Red Bulls dismantle the Houston Dynamo for their second win in a row Wednesday night, the Columbus Crew knows that it's in for a battle when New York visits Columbus Saturday.
“It was a great performance, probably one of the strongest performances of the year by any team,” Columbus Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter told reporters at Crew training Thursday. “It was a comprehensive win. The attacking movement was really good, and that was something that I don't know if they've always had. As a group they're coming together a little bit more, but they're looking good.”
While Berhalter knows the Red Bulls are up to the challenge, the two-game win streak they're on doesn't concern him.
“Either way, you have something you have to go against,” he said. “Either they want to stop the slide or they want to continue [a streak]. There's always a story. Every week is a story and we have to prepare our team to play a good game.”
In three consecutive weeks, the Crew have been frustrated by Toronto, San Jose and D.C. sitting back in defense and clogging the passing lanes for the possession-oriented Crew. But after watching them Wednesday, Berhalter doesn't think the Red Bulls will be comfortable with parking the bus in Columbus.
“I don't think New York is going to do that,” he said. “I don't think it's in their DNA. They're a very attacking-oriented team, a very strong team in possession, and I think it can set up to be a fantastic match if both teams look to play.”
If New York doesn't sit back on defense, Crew forward Dominic Oduro says he'll be at his best.
“I hope they don't tank,” he said. “If they tank, it'll be hard for me to make that run behind the defense, and it will be tough for me to do what I do best. I hope they don't, and if they don't, I’m sure I’ll be able to get my chances in behind.”
Defender and team Captain Michael Parkhurst isn't so sure that New York will want to play an open game.
“Coming off a game Wednesday night, I could see that they might [bunker],” he said. “The way they play, there's a little more open than D.C., they attack a little bit better with numbers. I don't expect them to pack it in. But if we concede an early goal, it's going to be difficult for us. I think any team is going to pack it in here.”
No matter how they play, Parkhurst knows that Thierry Henry – who notched two assists and a goal Wednesday – will cause the Crew headaches.
“Of course Henry is one of the best players in the League,” Parkhurst said. “He floats everywhere, too, so it's difficult to defend. Sometimes he's up top, other times he's playing playmaker as a number ten, sometimes he's in deep or out wide...so we'll have to make sure we keep a body on him, because as you saw last night, if you leave him open, he's able to find the passes that are penetrating and very dangerous.”