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

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

Match Preview

New York Red Bulls and Columbus Crew clash at the Red Bull Arena for the crucial second leg of their MLS Cup playoff Eastern Conference final tie.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Team News

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.

Key Points

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.

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Score Prediction

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.

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

Competition: MLS Cup Playoffs (Eastern Conference Final First Leg) – Columbus Crew vs. New York Red Bulls

Venue: MAPFRE Stadium – Sunday, November 22 – 17:00 ET (22:00 GMT)

Match Odds: Columbus Crew 5/4 – Draw 12/5 – New York Red Bulls 21/20

Match Preview

Columbus Crew welcome New York Red Bulls to MAPFRE Stadium for the first leg of their Eastern Conference Final clash, with one of these sides just two games away from the 2015 MLS Cup Final.

This is a huge fixture for Crew as they can get a real feeling as to whether or not they will advance into the final if they can outplay the Red Bulls on home soil.

In the last five meetings between the sides where Columbus have been at home they’ve been extremely hard to split. Both sides have won two and the other game a draw in that time so it’s almost impossible to call which way this first leg will go.

Columbus were taken to extra time by Montreal Impact in the last round and have Kei Kamara to thank for them getting them to this match. They cannot afford to give the Red Bulls chances otherwise they will more than likely be punished and keeping a clean sheet in the home leg will be one of the priorities for Columbus on Sunday.

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New York Red Bulls will be feeling confident heading into this tie. They have been in fantastic form but still have a lot of work to do if they are to complete a Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup double.

We can expect a similar performance to that of the first leg of the semifinals against DC United, where New York were happy to sit and wait for chances to arise on the counter.

Jesse Marsch will be looking for his side to get an away goal. As we know, losing the first leg with the consolation of an away goal keeps the second leg interesting and the Red Bulls’ approach to the game will be interesting to see.

As previously mentioned, the Red Bulls travel well away to Columbus and they have only failed to score once in their last five visits.

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Team News

Columbus Crew could be without up to three players as Kristinn Steindorsson and Mohammed Saeid are out, while Tony Tchani is a doubt. The Crew will need their top players to be on song here. Kei Kamara, Ethan Finlay and Federico Higuain have 46 goals between them this season and they need to continue to provide in this one.

New York Red Bulls are expected to be without Chris Duvall, Anatole Abang and Damien Perrinelle. Bradley Wright-Phillips and Lloyd Sam have 28 goals combined this season and their performances have been key to NYRB success. Luis Robles was awarded the Allstate goalkeeper of the season and it comes as no real surprise, he is a vital last line of defence for the Red Bulls.

Key Points

Columbus Crews’ last five: L/W/W/L/W

New York Red Bulls’ last five: L/W/W/W/W

Key Stat: Columbus have scored at least two goals in eight of their last ten Major League Soccer outings. You feel they will need to score at least two in the first leg and make use of their home advantage to have to best chance of progressing.

Key Player: Kei Kamara – The Crew look a completely different side when he is playing at his best and his brace against Montreal Impact in the last round saw them progress to this stage. They will need him at his best here.

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Score Prediction

Columbus Crew 2-1 New York Red Bulls – Crew to make home advantage count but still concede to a Red Bulls side who are very hard to stop. This will leave it perfectly poised for the second decisive leg to see who can make it to the MLS Cup Final.

2014 MLS Season Review: New England Revolution

Eastern Conference Final Position: 2nd

Eastern Conference Playoffs: Winners

MLS Cup Runner-up

Review

The 2014 campaign was a hugely successful one for the New England Revolution in many ways. They won more games in a season than ever before, and saw the highest ever attendances during their MLS Playoff run to the MLS Cup Final. The Revs might have lost in the final but the franchise will be delighted with the progress made and things look very good for 2015 and beyond.

Lee Nguyen was inspirational all season and the arrival of USMNT star Jermaine Jones transformed the Revs season at the perfect time. Next year should see the team improve further.

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Best Moment

Winning the Eastern Conference Championship against the New York Red Bulls has to go down as the best moment for the Revs in 2014. Their sublime playoff run saw them destroy the Columbus Crew and beating the Red Bulls over two legs saw them deservedly crowned Eastern Conference Champions.

Worst Moment

Losing in the MLS Cup Final was disappointing but not the worst moment of the season by any stretch. Losing eight games in a row in the middle of the season was a real bad spell for the club and they did well to turn things around later on.

Player of the Year

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Lee Nguyen – Sensational. Anyone who watched the Revs this season does not need to be told how good the playmaker was. He ended the season with a staggering 20 goals, including those scored in the playoffs and missed just two games all season. Nguyen was rewarded for his efforts with a call-up to the USMNT squad for the friendly against Colombia in London and he looks set for another huge campaign next time around.

Biggest Win

New England Revolution 5-0 Seattle Sounders (May 11 2014)

Biggest Defeat

LA Galaxy 5-1 New England Revolution (July 17 2014)

What to improve for the 2015 season…

There is not much that needs to be drastically changed in New England for next season. The way they ended the 2014 regular season and approached the playoffs deserves great credit and if they can pick up where they left off they will quickly be labelled as MLS Cup favourites for 2015. Jay Heaps has his side set up well, and has the right personnel in to make another charge at the MLS Cup next term.

They will be disappointed with the mid-season slump and consistency will be important this time around. They only won one of their opening five last season so it will be vital that they hit the ground running and make it last.

Playoff Preview and Prediction: New England Revolution vs New York Red Bulls

New York Red Bulls travel to New England Revolution for the second-leg of the Eastern Conference Final. The Revs hold the advantage after netting two away goals in the 2-1 win at Red Bull Arena in the first-leg on Sunday night.

The Red Bulls suffered their first defeat of the season to New England on Sunday night as they dominated the game, but couldn’t find the net more than once.

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Bradley Wright-Phillips scored New York’s goal in what was his 32nd of the year but the Red Bulls will be without the MLS top goalscorer for the second-leg as he picked up a yellow card which rules him out.

The first-leg was intense, exciting and full of chances for both sides. Ten yellow cards were issued and we will likely see an equally high-tempered affair at Gillette Stadium on Saturday.

New England’s 2014 home record: Played 18 – Won 12 – Drawn 2 – Lost 4

New York need to score at least twice to advance to their first MLS Cup final since 2008 but that will be no easy task, especially without Wright-Phillips.

Don’t miss: The latest MLSGB podcast as the team look at both conference finals

New England have won their last seven home games and could have over 30,000 fans in attendance to try and help the Revs reach their first title game since 2007. They have not conceded more than one goal at home since July – a run of nine games.

New York’s 2014 away record: Played 18 – Won 3 – Drawn 7 – Lost 8

Thierry Henry has declared that he will play on the artificial turf at Gillette Stadium for the first time in his career in what could be his final game for the Red Bulls. The absence of Wright-Phillips may see Henry pushed into a more central position, and he will look to be the difference-maker.

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The Red Bulls won 2-0 in New England earlier in the regular season. The same result would see them through but the Revs didn’t have Jermaine Jones then, and he proved to be the difference once again on Sunday – scoring the winner at Red Bull Arena.

It should be an exciting game, full of drama and both sides will be looking to attack from the offset. The Red Bulls need goals, while New England will undoubtedly look to put the game at bed as early as possible in front of a huge crowd.

Don’t miss: Thierry Henry calls for “composure” as Red Bulls look to overturn first-leg loss to New England

Both sides are looking to win their first ever MLS Cup title and they are just one game away from the grand finale now, but only one can progress.

Key Player: Lloyd Sam – The Red Bulls winger will look to create chances from the right side at every opportunity and he needs bodies to aim at in the box with Wright-Phillips out.

Key Stat: There have been five red cards in the last six games between these two at Gillette Stadium. One here could turn the tie.

New England Revolution’s last five: W/W/W/W/W

New York Red Bull’s last five: W/W/W/L/L

Score Prediction: 1-1 – A tense but open game should see both sides score, but the Revs’ two away goals will prove decisive come the final whistle.

Stats: Thierry Henry vs Lee Nguyen – Which playmaker will make the difference on Sunday?

New York Red Bulls host New England Revolution in the Eastern Conference Final first-leg on Sunday night, and two of Major League Soccer‘s best playmakers are set to go head-to-head in Thierry Henry and Lee Nguyen.

Henry has been a world-class talent for much of his career and he would be an integral part of any side, even at 37. The French genius is vital for the Red Bulls and his form in the MLS Playoffs so far this season has been a joy to watch.

He is arguably in the best run of form we’ve seen of him in a New York shirt and if he plays as he has done the past few weeks, the Red Bulls may have enough to win the first-leg.

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On the other side New England Revolution have a midfield maestro of their own in Lee Nguyen. The 28-year-old has had the best season of his career and leads the Revs in goals with 20, including the two in the playoffs so far.

Don’t miss: Playoff Preview and Prediction: New York Red Bulls vs New England Revolution

Nguyen’s form was rewarded with a call-up to the USMNT last week and we can expect to see him back with Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad in January.

Without Nguyen, it’s difficult to see how New England would have made it into the playoffs. Jermaine Jones’ arrival sparked the team into life but its the playmaker who has been the start this year.

The battle between Henry and Nguyen should go a long way to deciding the outcome of this game, as if either player can pull the strings on Sunday, they should guide their team to victory.

Thierry Henry vs Lee Nguyen in 2014 - including playoffs. Stats via Squawka.

Thierry Henry vs Lee Nguyen in 2014 – including playoffs. Stats via Squawka.

Nguyen has scored an impressive 20 goals so far and is more of a goal threat than Henry because of his more central position.

Henry tends to play out on the left now for the Red Bulls so his goal return of 10 so far is still impressive, and the Frenchman has made 10 more goals for teammates than the Revs man has managed. With Bradley Wright-Phillips the one who has benefitted most from Henry’s presence this year.

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The pair are both so influential for their sides and that is shown by their individual influence to the total team goals this season. Henry has contributed to 24 of New York’s 60 goals in 2014 (40%). Whereas Nguyen has contributed to the same number of goals (24) of New England’s 58 this year (41%).

The two have enjoyed very similar campaigns in terms of goal contribution and will need to be at their best once more to help their side’s try and get the advantage in the first-leg showdown at Red Bull arena.

Who will make the difference on Sunday – Henry or Nguyen?