*Note: This post was edited by ColumbusCrewSC.com and provided by MLSsoccer.com
The winner of the Crew's Thursday's match vs. the New York Red Bulls will clinch a spot in the Round of 16 of the MLS is Back Tournament as the two clubs prep for the second of three matches in Group E play.
Both teams are coming off respective wins last Saturday, with the Red Bulls topping Atlanta United, 1-0, thanks to an early one-on-one breakaway goal from Florian Valot.
Similar to Columbus (2-0-1, 7 pts.), the Red Bulls (2-0-1, 7 pts.) secured four points from their first two league matches back in March with a win over FC Cincinnati and a draw against Real Salt Lake.
As for the Crew, Head Coach Caleb Porter said the team is continuing its "business-like" approach after the club's recent rivalry win.
"If you’re too high or too low, that’s not a great mentality. You don’t want a rollercoaster. You want a real business-like team that enjoys the wins, but they’re not surprised and they move on to the next one," Porter said.
"The best team doesn’t win. It’s the team that plays best. ... And I think it’s my job to push [the players] and challenge them and make sure that they’re prepared the right way and I keep them focused, but also it’s their job to hold themselves to a high standard and hold each other to a high standard, so I think it was pretty calm in the locker room after the [FC Cincinnati] game."
Before the tournament, Porter said there will inevitably be some rotation throughout the group stage, though he did say #CINvCLB created some silver linings as it relates to workload and advantageous subbing.
However, Columbus heads into Thursday's match without centerback Vito Wormgoor, who suffered an ankle injury in the first half against Cincinnati.
"Vito has left the bubble to get his ankle evaluated by our team doctors," Porter said on Tuesday. "So, it’s serious enough where we felt that was important for him to leave and get evaluated. As far as what that means and what’s going to happen, we don’t know that for sure, but he’s definitely out for the rest of the tournament."
In terms of recent results, the Crew is 4-2-2 in the last eight combined regular-season and postseason matches against the Red Bulls, including a 3-0-2 record in the last five.
Midfielder Artur is one of the longest-tenured players on the current roster and has played against the Red Bulls in each of those last eight matches.
"It’s always a hard game against them. They are a very pressing team. They go high in the field and try to win the balls. I think we are prepared, we have faced them a few times already in preseason and late last season. So I think we are ready. We know what they are capable of and we are going to do everything we need to do to be ready for this game."
As consistent as RBNY's style is, the last two regular-season matchups featured fairly opposite offensive statistics from the Crew, who totaled just 279 passes in the 3-2 win at Red Bull Arena on July 27, 2019. On the other hand, the Crew's 1-1 draw in the 2019 opener featured 557 back on March 2, 2019, though RBNY has made it no secret that possession statistics can be misleading as it relates to their pressing and direct style of play.
Still, the Club's varied playbook is a sign of the pragmatism Porter has instilled throughout his tenure in Columbus.
- HIGHLIGHTS | Columbus 1 - 1 New York Red Bulls -- March 2, 2019
- HIGHLIGHTS | Columbus 3 - 2 New York Red Bulls -- July 27, 2019
"I think there’s a certain element when you play New York that you have to be up for mentality wise, physicality wise, and we’ve done a good job of that type of game in the past of being up for that and that type of game," Porter said. "Not being caught off guard with the first and second balls, and duals and direct play and disruptive and effective style that they play. So we’re usually ready for that. But, also, we don’t get caught up in it so much where they’re doing what they’re doing best. We still have to play our game. We still have to get the ball down through them and behind them and get that control that we look for, that we want."
Goalkeeper Eloy Room, who featured for Columbus in that 3-2 victory last July, gave comments in line with Porter's notion of coming in prepared for the RBNY style.
"They are really physical and really direct, direct play. So it’s going to be a test for us and also a real different game than Cincinnati. They are dominant and want to press the opponent, so it’ll be a tough game for us but I’m confident in our own way of playing. I think if we do our job together then we can win this game."
Porter mentioned how Thursday's clash of styles brings an extra element of significance in that the winner of this match will advance to the Round of 16.
"It’s an important game. If you can get through on this game, then now you can look at that third game a little bit, and you’re not under quite as much pressure to get through. It’s still a regular-season game and we still want to get points, but it would be nice to be in that position for the third game, to know that we are already through and can kind of make decisions and not have to overcook guys for three games in a row. But, also, we have to be smart in this next game."
Thursday's match is set to kick off at 10:30 p.m. ET and will be televised nationally on FS1, TUDN and TSN, as well as via stream on the FOX Sports App and the TUDN App.