Two teams in very different places in the MLS Eastern Conference meet Saturday night for what might be a defining match for both sides.
After a strong start to the season, Columbus Crew SC (6-14-3, 21 points) has been on a decline. Since May 11, the Crew have taken just five points from 11 league matches, a drop in form that sees them sitting second from the bottom of the conference. The Crew need to start getting results if they hope to make the postseason.
On the other hand, the host Red Bulls (10-8-4, 34) could be atop the conference if they rattle off a few more wins in the coming weeks. They have found their way recently after a sluggish start to the season, having two wins and a draw in their past four matches.
There is reason for optimism and perhaps some hope for the Crew, though. Despite the bad stretch of results, the team has played well under first-year head coach Caleb Porter. There is also Curacao international goalkeeper Eloy Room, a veteran of the Dutch league, who made his debut last weekend in a 2-1 home win over the Montreal Impact.
“In the beginning, it’s a little bit difficult. You must know the club, the players and how everything works,” Room said.
“On the pitch, I know what to do. I know my job and have the boys and support the team.”
Room will face a Red Bulls team that is humming along and getting results in surprising fashion.
Injured for much of the past two months, star striker Bradley Wright-Phillips is just returning to fitness from a recent adductor injury. The goal scoring has come by committee during this stretch but second-year forward Brian White has stepped in to provide the punch in the final third.
There are some difficult choices for Red Bulls head coach Chris Armas. Wright-Phillips, the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, is now fit and has come off the bench the past six matches but has yet to return to the starting lineup.
“On the day, which guy gives you the best chance? Which couple of guys make the roster, let’s say,” Armas said.
“It’s good competition, it’s healthy competition. It’s real because each guy takes his opportunities well with the USL, with the first team, as starters...It’s at the point and time now where you think about things closely and you think even more when (you) work with two strikers ... what that can look like.”
—Field Level Media