Competition: MLS Cup Playoffs (Eastern Conference Final Second Leg) – New York Red Bulls vs. Columbus Crew
Venue: Red Bull Arena – Sunday, November 29 – 19:30 ET (00:30 GMT – Monday, November 30)
Match Odds: New York Red Bulls 4/6 – Draw 3/1 – Columbus Crew 15/4
The Crew made the most of their home advantage in the first leg, securing a 2-0 win thanks to Justin Meram who scored the fastest goal in MLS Cup playoff history after just nine seconds of the game, before top goalscorer Kei Kamara added a vital second late on.
The New York Red Bulls will be disappointed with their performance in the first leg and know full well they’ve left themselves a monumental task to try and reach the MLS Cup final.
Jesse Marsch has to rally his men and draw upon their good form coming into the postseason – the defeat to Columbus ended a run of four straight victories and was only their second loss in eight games.
New York have been almost impeccable on home soil in the last few months, winning ten of their last 11 games at Red Bull Arena – in order to go through, they need to win either 2-0 or by a three goal margin should Columbus score, given the away goals rule.
Columbus Crew will be ecstatic after a quite simply magnificent performance in the first leg and they’ve given themselves an excellent chance of going all the way.
They came into this contest as underdogs, so it will be interesting to see how they cope with the pressure of knowing they’re now in a great position and are most definitely favourites to reach the final.
Gregg Berhalter’s side have only lost by two goals or more on one occasion in their last 14 games, so they will be confident of finishing the job on Sunday night.
The Red Bulls can’t really afford to let Columbus score if they are to have a realistic chance of progressing, as one goal for the Crew would leave them needing to score four in reply.
With an MLS Cup final spot at stake, one thing we can guarantee is that it promises to be another night of entertainment, excitement and drama – it’s certainly not one to miss.
New York Red Bulls will be without defensive duo Chris Duvall (broken leg) and Damien Perrinelle (knee). Ronald Zubar will partner Matt Miazga at the centre of the defence and they will need to be fully focused and organised to ensure they avoid any silly mistakes. Miazga, Zubar, Wright-Phillips and Sacha Kljestan are all one yellow card away from missing the final should they qualify.
Columbus Crew will continue to be without midfielder Kristinn Steindorsson who is recovering from a knee injury. Harrison Afful and Tyson Wahl will be keen to avoid cautions, as one more would see them miss the final if they were to make it.
New York Red Bulls’ last five: W/W/W/W/L
Columbus Crew’s last five: W/W/L/W/W
Key Stat: No side has ever overcome a two goal deficit from a conference final first leg to reach the MLS Cup final.
Key Player: Bradley Wright-Phillips – The English striker was isolated for large periods of the first leg in Columbus and the Red Bulls need to bring him into the game more frequently this time around to stand a chance of recovering the tie.
New York Red Bulls 2-1 Columbus Crew – The New York Red Bulls have left themselves with a mountain to climb but they’ll certainly give their all to turn it round. They will run Columbus close but having to come out and attack may leave the door open for the Crew to expose their defensive frailties. A narrow Red Bulls win could be on the cards, but it may not be enough to see them make the final.