After an energizing home win, Columbus Crew SC (9-7-6) heads back east to face the New York Red Bulls (13-5-2) on Saturday, July 28 at 7 p.m. ET at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey.
Columbus is coming off of a 3-2 home victory against Orlando City SC last Saturday thanks to a brace from Gyasi Zardes and a 35-yard last-minute rocket from captain Wil Trapp. Meanwhile, the Red Bulls are fresh off of a 1-0 victory over D.C. United at Audi field on Wednesday night. Forward Bradley Wright-Phillips scored the game-winning goal in just the second minute to take home three points.
These two sides last met on June 9, as Crew SC claimed a point at MAPFRE Stadium in a 1-1 draw. Zardes opened the game's scoring with a back-post header in the 26th minute on a cross from Harrison Afful. New York's Alex Muyl equalized early in the second half on a free-kick in the 57th minute.
In that match, Columbus outshot the Red Bulls 18-11, including a 6-to-0 on-target advantage in the first half as part of an overall even-keeled match which saw Crew SC favored in possession (52.9 percent), corners (6), and passing accuracy (73.7 percent).
Perhaps as a precursor of what to expect on Saturday, one thing is for certain according to Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter.
“Red Bull is always a difficult game for us,” Berhalter said. “What they do, they do very well so we have to be aware of it. It doesn’t mean we can’t play at all. When you look at the last game, there were times where we really picked them apart — particularly in the first half. So, there will be opportunities, we just have to be smart."
On July 21, forward Patrick Mullins earned his first Crew SC appearance as a second-half sub against Orlando City SC, totaling one header on-frame which nearly leveled the score in the 76th minute.
After training on Tuesday, Mullins provided insight on the type of game fans should come to expect in this conference match-up.
"It's always a grueling match against them, so we have to be ready for a war," Mullins said. "I think we have to be ready to get down, get dirty at times, make sure that we aren't being out-physicaled by them - I think that's important to them - and then letting our game speak for itself because I think we have the quality to play through them and definitely create some problems for them."
Midfielder Mike Grella returns to his former team in the Red Bulls after providing the game-winning assist against Orlando City. Grella played 76 minutes in the June 9 match, and spoke on the team's performance last week and in what to expect this week.
"We have a lot of quality and so do they, so it'll be a really exciting game," Grella said. "Playing at Red Bull Arena always a good time anyway, so I'm looking forward to it."
The Black & Gold currently sit at fourth in the Eastern Conference, just five points behind the third-place Red Bulls. Columbus holds a 27-30-11 record all-time against the Red Bulls, including a 10-18-5 record away from MAPFRE Stadium.
Crew SC's last result at Red Bull Arena came on Oct. 19, 2014, in the shape of a 3-1 victory.
Next up, the Black & Gold return home to host the Houston Dynamo as part of Columbus Zoo Night on Saturday, August 11. The match kicks off at 7:30 p.m. ET.