On Thursday night, the Columbus Crew and the New York Red Bulls face off in a huge Group E battle. Here are three things to watch for.
While it was certainly the least attended edition of the Hell is Real Derby, the Crew showed up for the occasion, beating FC Cincinnati 4-0. Led by a Gyasi Zardes brace, Columbus showed what many thought they were capable of entering the tournament. They had no problem against Cincinnati, but will a stronger Red Bulls side provide more of a challenge?
The Red Bulls scored early, continued to push forward and eventually saw their 1-0 lead earn them an important three points in their opener against Atlanta United. Florian Valot was the lone goalscorer and provided a threat that the Red Bulls have been missing in wide areas. With just one match following Thursday’s clash, there’s little room to slip.
Here are three things to watch for.
3. Building on an emphatic victory
Whether it be the Seattle Sounders or New York City FC, we have seen big sides struggle to get going in their opening games. The Columbus Crew cannot relate, convincingly beating FC Cincinnati 4-0 Saturday night.
In a tournament-style competition with just three group games, the opening result can often change morale, especially if it doesn’t go your way. Caleb Porter’s men had the opportunity in facing 2019’s last-placed FC Cincinnati to shake off the rust and gain valuable minutes before tougher matches against the Red Bulls and Atlanta. They took full advantage.
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What was most threatening from Columbus was their success in finding Zardes in dangerous positions. The Red Bulls will not be as open as Cincinnati, but watching Darlington Nagbe run the midfield and Youness Mokhtar and Lucas Zelarayan pick out Zardes was a joy to watch.
We knew Columbus would be one of the stronger teams in the Eastern Conference but the performance against Cincinnati proved their ability to play together. It was important to establish a sense of rhythm and teamwork. Now, can they build on that excellent start?