Any team -- except for maybe the 2010 FC Barcelona squad -- is going to experience a dropoff when losing a player like Thierry Henry. But with a new coach and new midfield, the New York Red Bulls have shown little, if any, sign of slowing through two matches in 2015.
Bradley Wright-Phillips already has one goal to his name in the current campaign after netting 27 to win the 2014 Budweiser Golden Boot, and is coming off MLS Player of the Week honors. His attack-mate Lloyd Sam scored in each of the Red Bulls' two matches thus far in 2015.
Limiting the impact of the duo, as well as the midfield trio of Felipe, Sacha Kljestan and Dax McCarty will be Crew SC's focus when it welcomes the Red Bulls on Saturday.
"I think they miss Henry, any team would," Columbus captain Michael Parkhurst said. "I still think Wright-Phillips is one of the best strikers in the League. He’s going to be a handful for us. Sacha comes in and adds some creativity in the midfield, I think he’s a very good player. Sam has started the season very strong, so he’s a guy we’re going to keep an eye out.
"They’re a dangerous team, but I think the onus is on us -- especially on our home field -- to push the tempo and to control the game."
Sam was particularly dangerous against Columbus last season, scoring twice and picking up an assist in three matches against the Black & Gold. Crew SC Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter is well aware of that fact.
"[Sam] is a guy that we’re well aware of," said Berhalter. "He scored against us last time at Red Bull Arena. He had an assist at Red Bull Arena the first game. He’s a good player, he’ll be tough to shut down.
In watching film on the Red Bulls' previous two matches, Berhalter has noticed a difference in the way New York applies pressure to the opposition under Jesse Marsch.
"Henry has a tremendous amount of individual quality, and that’s something you can’t make up with one guy," he explained. "They’re certainly missing that, but what I think they’ve changed a little bit is some of their pressing in the midfield. They’re doing a good job of that.
"They have — in my eyes — probably the best goalscorer in the League right now. [Wright-Phillips] and Robbie Keane are right up there."
Crew SC split the 2014 season series with the Red Bulls, 1-1-1, capping off the trio of matches with a 3-1 win at Red Bull Arena last October. The Black & Gold kick-off versus New York at 7:30 p.m. (Time Warner Cable SportsChannel / CD102.5 FM) at MAPFRE Stadium.