Vancouver Whitecaps 2-2 Columbus Crew: Five takeaways

Vancouver Whitecaps and Columbus Crew got Week 6’s action underway with the first midweek clash of the new MLS season on Wednesday night in a highly entertaining game that ended 2-2 at BC Place.

The Whitecaps came into the game on a win streak of four but had to settle for a valuable point after coming from behind twice to earn a share of the spoils.

Kei Kamara grabbed both of the Crew’s goals, with Octavio Rivero netting again for the Whitecaps and Darren Mattocks netting the all-important second equaliser.

Here are five takeaways from the game:

1. Mattocks makes his mark

Carl Robinson decided the time was right to start Jamaican international Darren Mattocks on Wednesday, as the pacey forward started on the left in place of Kekuta Manneh, and he didn’t disappoint. Mattocks grabbed a goal and an assist and was named as Man of the Match in his first start of the year. He was full of energy and contributed to the defensive side of the game as well as attacking, and improved dramatically when Manneh entered the game on 56 minutes. He could have had a hat-trick on the night as he recorded seven shots, one of which cannoned off the post with the game level at 2-2. Vancouver’s forward line looks strong.

2. Columbus will be O-Kei

Kei Kamara in action for the Columbus Crew against Vancouver Whitecaps

Columbus Crew have had a less than convincing start to the 2015 season, winning just one of their opening four games but Wednesday night’s performance against the best side in MLS right now will leave Gregg Berhalter pleased. Federico Higuain missed the game through suspension but Kei Kamara didn’t suffer without the playmaker as he netted both of the Crew’s goals. Kamara now has three in four and looks sharp in and around goal. Expect the Crew to start climbing the Eastern Conference now.

3. Role reversals

Coming into this game, the Crew were the top side in MLS in terms of average possession per game, while the Whitecaps were the worst, seeing less of the ball than anyone else after five weeks. But that all changed on Wednesday as the ‘Caps dominated the game for large spells. Vancouver had 62% of the possession and showed a more controlling side to their game, while the Crew proved they can be just as effective as a counter-attacking side. These teams are two of the more exciting in MLS and proved they can play more than one way to good effect on Wednesday night.

4. Shall we just give Rivero the Golden Boot now?

Octavio Rivero in action for the Vancouver Whitecaps against Columbus Crew

Octavio Rivero added his fifth goal of the season against the Crew to keep him at the top of the goalscoring charts at this early stage and the Uruguayan forward looks unstoppable in and around goal. He picked up the March Player of the Month award in his first month in MLS and has recorded more shots, and shots on goal than any other player in the league. The Whitecaps are playing well and Rivero is looking like an incredible piece of business as he can’t stop finding the net. Expect him to continue his goalscoring form when the Whitecaps travel to San Jose on Saturday.

5. Is this the turning point for entertainment in MLS this season?

The 2015 season hasn’t hit full flow yet as there have been several cagey displays by teams and nowhere near enough goals (we’re looking at you Colorado) but that changed on Wednesday. The ‘Caps and Crew played out one of the best games of the season so far at BC Place as there were a combined 37 shots on goal at either end. Both teams attacked from the outset and that lead to a free-flowing, entertaining game that we usually see more of across the league. This was a hopefully a sign of things to come as Week 6 got off to a fun start. Bring on the weekend!

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MLS Preview and Prediction: Columbus Crew vs New York Red Bulls

Competition: Major League Soccer – Columbus Crew vs New York Red Bulls

Venue: MAPFRE Stadium – Saturday, March 28 – 19:30 ET (23:30 GMT)

Match Odds: Columbus Crew 21/20 – Draw 5/2 – New York Red Bulls – 12/5

Match Preview

Columbus Crew entertain New York Red Bulls on Saturday evening as both sides look to build upon their first win of the MLS season.

The Crew beat Toronto 2-0 last time out and are currently sitting in fourth place, with three points from two games, while the Red Bulls are in second place with four points from two games after they beat DC United 2-0 last weekend.

The last time these two sides met, it ended in a 3-1 victory for Columbus and the hosts will certainly be hoping for a repeat result.

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New York Red Bulls are looking to kick into gear after getting that important first win with key man Bradley Wright-Phillips now off the mark. They need to start picking up the pace to show that they can deal with life after Thierry Henry and back-to-back wins will send out a message that they mean business.

Columbus Crew’s Kei Kamara also opened his account last weekend and he will be looking to add to his tally to show why the Crew signed him.

Both sides have started this season cautiously and have looked a little rusty in places, but as the games come thick and fast they will continue to ease into their flowing play.

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Federico Higuain is yet to open his account for the campaign and he will be eager to improve on last seasons tally of 11 goals.

This is an important game for both sides who will want to stake a claim for the playoff places and Columbus head coach Gregg Berhalter will be confident he can lead the side to the playoffs once again.

Team News

Columbus Crew have just one known injury concern in the shape of Romain Gall (sprained knee). Though they will be without Justin Meram, Will Trapp and Waylon Francis, who are all away on international duty, so changes will have to be made.

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New York Red Bulls don’t have too many concerns but new man Ronald Zubar could miss out with a hamstring problem and Roy Miller has a sprained knee. Dane Richards, Kemar Lawrence and Karl Ouimette are all away on international duty. Bradley Wright-Phillips and Lloyd Sam impressed last weekend, so Steve Clark could have a busy evening in-between the sticks.

Key Points

Columbus Crew’s form: L/W

New York Red Bulls’ form: D/W

Key Stat: These two sides have scored nine goals between them in their last two meetings (New York Red Bulls 1-3 Columbus Crew/New York Red Bulls 4-1 Columbus Crew). If that is anything to go by, we could be in for a treat.

Key Player: Federico Higuain – The playmaker is key to making the Crew tick and he can be the difference with the service to Kamara.

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Score Prediction

Columbus Crew 1-1 New York Red Bulls – Neither side will want to lose any ground in the playoff charge, even this early on. We can expect Higuain to be pulling the strings for the Crew, while Wright-Phillips and Sam will look to pick-up where they left off last weekend.

2014 MLS Season Review: Columbus Crew

Eastern Conference final position: 3rd

Eastern Conference playoffs: Semi-Final

Best Moment

Beating LA Galaxy 4-1 in mid-August was a special result for the Columbus Crew, especially as the Galaxy were in good form at the time.

Worst Moment

A run of eight games without a win through April and May saw the Crew score just six goals. They lost three on the bounce without finding the net in what was their worst form of the season. The 7-3 playoff loss to New England will have hurt them too.

Player of the Year

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Federico Higuain was excellent this season. The Argentinian playmaker scored 12 goals and picked up six assists in what was a solid campaign. He missed the Crew’s playoff second-leg against New England and fans will hope that they haven’t seen the last of him. He is an extremely talented player who can turn games in an instance.

Biggest Win

Columbus Crew 4-1 LA Galaxy (August 16 2014)

Biggest Defeat

New York Red Bulls 4-1 Columbus Crew (July 12 2014)

What to improve for the 2015 season…

Columbus Crew will have a new look starting next season

Columbus Crew will have a new look starting next season

The Crew made the playoffs for the first season in three years so it was certainly a successful campaign. They will be disappointed with the way they exited, but Columbus will be expecting a similar season next year. Rising stars such as Ethan Finlay look set to improve further and should help the side return to the playoffs. They were the most accurate passers of the ball in MLS and will expect to keep a similar style of play come March. The new logo will see the club look different but fans will expect much the same of what they saw this year.

Playoff Preview and Prediction: Columbus Crew vs New England Revolution

The semi-finals of the conference playoffs get started this weekend, and Columbus Crew will welcome New England Revolution for the first-leg of their Eastern Conference clash on Saturday night (20:00 GMT).

The Crew ended the regular season just three points behind the second-placed Revs but beat them in two of the three games over the course of the season, and will be looking to get off to a great start in the home leg.

Columbus’ home form: Played 17 – Won 9 – Drawn 4 – Lost 4

Columbus won their last seven home games of the regular season so they will be confident, though interestingly the only loss they suffered in their final eight matches was away at New England.

The Revs only lost one of their last twelve, and incredibly that was against Columbus so this game is truly on a knife’s edge.

New England’s away form: Played 17 – Won 6 – Drawn 2 – Lost 9

Jermaine Jones and Lee Nguyen are crucial for the Revs in midfield and both players netted in the 2-1 win against Columbus at the start of October.

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Both sides are so evenly matched on paper so this should be a thrilling tie over the two legs, and New England will want to find the net in Columbus on Saturday to take an away goal into the home tie.

The Crew have not beaten New England in the playoffs in five attempts so far and will need to change that to have any chance as they return to the post-season for the first time in three years.

New England were eliminated at this stage last year as they lost to eventual winners Sporting Kansas City but they have a great chance of success this time around, and with the second-leg at home, the pressure is on Columbus in this one.

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Key player: Federico Higuain – The Argentine forward scored in two of the three games against the Revs this season and is crucial to the Crew’s hopes.

Key stat: New England only kept one clean sheet away from home all season, while the Crew have won their last seven at home.

Columbus’ last five: W/L/W/W/W

New England’s last five: W/W/D/W/W

Prediction: Columbus Crew 2-2 New England Revolution

Player ratings: New York Red Bulls 1-3 Columbus Crew

Columbus Crew deservedly ran out 3-1 winners over New York Red Bulls on Sunday night with a brilliant performance that silenced the crowd.

How did each player fare at the Red Bull Arena?

New York Red Bulls:

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[Lloyd Sam: The stand-out player for New York Red Bulls]

  • Luis Robles (Goalkeeper) – 5/10 – It was a tough day at the office for the Red Bulls ‘keeper. He will be disappointed with the second goal after he managed to get a touch on it but couldn’t keep it out.
  • Armando (Defender) – 5/10 – The Spaniard was turned inside-out in the early stages and you could see that his confidence took a hit as he never really recovered from it.
  • Jamison Olave (Defender) – 5/10 – He tried hard but couldn’t stay consistent throughout the course of the game. He was a bit of a rabbit in the headlights for The Crew’s first goal and didn’t react quickly enough.
  • Richard Eckersley (Defender) – 6/10 – He didn’t have too bad a game but there was a breakdown in communication with his fellow defenders for the third goal which allowed too much time and space in the box for Columbus and particularly Schoenfeld.
  • Roy Miller (Defender) – 5/10 – He didn’t make any crucial errors but gave the ball away too frequently with a passing accuracy of just 72% (according to Squawka).
  • Dax McCarty (Midfielder) – 5/10 – He’s normally so reliable in the middle of the park but he was certainly not at his usual high standard and didn’t provide BWP with enough to feed off.
  • Eric Alexander (Midfielder) – 6/10 – It was a soft performance from Alexander as he allowed the Crew’s midfield to carve through the middle too easily without putting in enough challenges.
  • Lloyd Sam (Midfielder) – 8/10 – Easily the most creative player for the Red Bulls. He scored a wonderful solo goal and created numerous chances for New York. If there was any positives to take from the game, Sam’s performance is one of them.
  • Peguy Luyindula (Midfielder) – 5/10 – It was a very subdued display from Luyindula. He struggled to impose himself on the game and really was fairly ineffective.
  • Thierry Henry (Midfielder) – 6/10 – It’s strange to see a performance like this from the Frenchman because he wasn’t his usual self. He seemed to look slightly off the pace and confused by the quality of Columbus.
  • Bradley Wright-Phillips (Forward) – 6/10 – He barely had a touch of the ball which is very disappointing considering that he is chasing down an MLS record for all-time top goalscorer in a regular season. With that said, the service from midfield left a lot to desire.
  • Ambroise Oyongo (Defender) – 7/10 – He was very influential when he came on and really brought New York to life. He was certainly one of the brightest sparks and tried his best to change the game.
  • Ruben Bover (Defender) – 6/10 – He didn’t stand a chance of impacting the game with only 11 minutes to do so.

Columbus Crew:

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[Ethan Finlay was outstanding for Columbus Crew]

  • Steve Clark (Goalkeeper) – 9/10 – A marvellous performance between the posts. He made countless brilliant saves and was dominant in the penalty area, claiming everything that came his way with confidence.
  • Bernardo Anor (Defender) – 7/10 – He joined in with attacks in the first half and helped overrun the Red Bulls defence down the flanks.
  • Hector Jimenez (Defender) – 7/10 – It’s so hard to criticise either of the Columbus centre-backs as they were both very good.
  • Michael Parkhurst (Defender) – 7/10 – Mr. Consistent at the back and once again, he was very solid.
  • Tyson Wahl (Defender) – 6/10 – He had a decent game but was beaten by Lloyd Sam far too easily for the goal.
  • Ethan Finlay (Midfielder) – 9/10 – It was a dream game for Finlay. He took his goal brilliantly and had wonderful build up play in the second half which lead to the third goal. He was a constant threat and looked dangerous throughout.
  • Federico Higuain (Midfielder) – 8/10 – He put in a real shift and had great link-up play with Finlay for the 3rd goal. A special mention must go to his fantastic passing accuracy of 91% (according to Squawka).
  • Justin Meram (Midfielder) – 7/10 – He wasn’t influential on the game but when you don’t seem to notice a player, it usually means they’re putting in a good, solid performance that’s free of mistakes.
  • Tony Tchani (Midfielder) – 8/10 – The definition of being a beast in the middle of the park. It was a Yaya Toure esque performance. He drove with the ball well and played a wonderful pass to Finlay for the second goal.
  • Wil Trapp (Midfielder) – 7/10 – Trapp was a real team player in a real team performance. He didn’t put a foot wrong for his side and covered every blade of grass.
  • Aaron Schoenfeld (Forward) – 9/10 – A superb performance, giving you everything you ask your centre-forward for – he ran the defence ragged and bagged himself two well taken goals.
  • Chad Barson (Defender) – 7/10 – He had a good performance to sure up the game for the Crew and stem the flow of New York attacks.
  • Emanuel Pogatetz (Defender) – 6/10 – The half-time substitute should have closed down Lloyd Sam quicker for his goal. Other than that, he did enough at the back.
  • Eric Gehrig (Defender) – 6/10 – A late substitute so he didn’t have an influence on the game. He didn’t make a mistake though and that’s the key.

New York Red Bulls will travel to Sporting Kansas City for their final game of the regular season next weekend, while Columbus Crew will host Philadelphia Union.

The pair are likely to meet in the MLS Playoffs as they are currently sitting in fourth and fifth place in the Eastern Conference, and New York will be disappointed to have lost their last home game of the season.

Who will get further in the MLS Playoffs – New York Red Bulls or Columbus Crew?