Wed, 12 Aug 2020

Crew, Red Bulls play for spot in knockout round

Field Level Media
16 Jul 2020, 11:05 GMT+10

The stakes get higher as the MLS is Back Tournament moves into the second of three Group E matches when the Columbus Crew play the New York Red Bulls on Thursday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando.

Each team opened with a victory, so a win for either would secure a top-two spot and guarantee advancement to the 16-team knockout round.

Columbus (2-0-1, 7 points) routed FC Cincinnati 4-0 on Saturday behind two goals from Gyasi Zardes and a brilliant free kick score from Lucas Zelarayan. Youness Mokhtar also scored.

"It's going to be a test for us and also a real different game for us than Cincinnati," Crew goalkeeper Eloy Room said. "They're dominant and want to press the opponent. It's a tough game for us, but I'm confident in our own way of playing."

New York (2-0-1, 7 points) defeated Atlanta United 1-0 on Saturday when Florian Valot scored in the fourth minute. He returned from a pair of season-ending knee surgeries for his first goal since the 2018 season.

"Obviously it's really rewarding for myself after what I've been through for the last two years, but it's full credit for the team," he said.

The Thursday game will be a matchup of contrasts. New York plays high pressure while the Crew like to attack, attack, attack.

"They're a handful. They can hurt you in so many ways," Red Bulls coach Chris Armas said.

Zelarayan, an Argentine midfielder who was acquired in the offseason with a club record transfer fee from Mexican club Tigres, has energized the Crew with two goals and two assists.

Crew coach Caleb Porter knows the Red Bulls' strategy will be to slow down Zelarayan and his teammates with tight defending.

"They are going to try to disrupt us. They are going to try to make it about the Red Bulls," Porter said. "They are going to want to play the game on their terms."

--Field Level Media

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