Before the season got underway the experts that follow Major League Soccer were already anointing the Columbus Crew as the team to beat and the team that will be the best side in the Eastern Conference for the 2015 season. Adding Kei Kamara was a huge move since allowing Jairo Arrieta to sign with DC United.
But the Red Bulls had a game plan that was put to perfection and they were able to head out on the road at the renamed Mapfre Stadium. In the first 45 minutes it was a decent performance that forced the Red Bulls onto their heals half the time and the Crew tried to exploit the backline and stretch the defense, but a lot of credit to the defense as they kept their shape most of the half.
But as the second half began it looked like the Red Bulls regrouped and brought in their pressure style offense on the Crew and it lead to the first goal of the game in the 48th minute. Bradley Wright-Phillips made a solid pass to Lloyd Sam and it looked like a repeat of the goal scored last week, but this time he was taken out in the area by Emanual Pogatezt and a point to the spot by referee Sorin Stoica.
Wright-Phillips walks up to the spot and converts inside the far post for the lead in the next minute.
Even though Tony Tchani converted the equalizer off a deflection from the cross in the 58th minute, the Red Bulls decided to make a substitution in the 66th minute that brought Mike Grella into the game and that’s when history was made. After Wright-Phillips was able to force a turnover in the middle of the field, the ball was deflected towards Grella and he saw Steve Clark well off his line and decided to hit a long chip shot & it struck the back of the net for another Red Bulls lead in the next minute.
Not only was this the first goal in MLS for Mike Grella, but for the club it’s self that was the 1,000th goal scored in club history when it started back in 1996 as a charter member of Major League Soccer and were originally known as the NY/NJ MetroStars. The first goal that was scored for the club back in 1996 was by current head coach of the New York Cosmos Giovanni Savarese.
But as it looked like the Red Bulls were going to walk out of Columbus with the full three points they were gifted by an outburst from Federico Higuain as he fouled Sam and when he didn’t like the call, grabbed the ball and punched it down. That outburst gave him a second yellow card and a red that put the Crew down to 10 men in the 83rd minute & the three points.
“I thought we handled the pace of the game really well.” Said Red Bulls Head Coach Jesse Marsch, “It was a fast game and they were good at spreading the field, but we were able to stay after them and when we one-balled we were able to find advantages forward. Even in build–up, especially in the second half, we were able to space ourselves a little bit better.”
In their first three games the Red Bulls have scored seven out of a potential nine points and earning four of the seven on the road. It’s still early to tell how this season will figured its self out, but right now the club is playing smart, speedy and putting a lot of pressure on their opponents and doing a good job of it as well. I think the turnaround to supporting Jesse Marsch is starting to come.
Author: Daniel Feuerstein