Red Bulls aim for first win of the season at home to Columbus Crew

Andres Reyes is one to watch in Red Bulls-Columbus Crew Saturday night

PREVIEW – The New York Red Bulls and Columbus Crew clash Saturday night, coming off 1-1 draws on the road. New York escaped the frigid and cold Minnesota with a point, while the Crew shared the spoils north of the border at Toronto. New York finally scored a goal, but are still without a win on the season. Gerhard Struber is searching for answers, while Wilfried Nancy is enjoying a decent start to life as the new Columbus boss. Two original MLS franchises meet for the 78th time in Harrison Saturday night. Let’s give it a preview.

Red Bulls and Columbus Crew clash at Red Bull Arena Saturday night

Red Bulls finally score, but are still misfiring on offense

It took three games, but the Red Bulls are finally on the scoreboard. A 1-1 draw at a snowy Minnesota United spared New York, but shouldn’t completely absolve them. Lewis Morgan played as a second striker alongside Cory Burke and did everything but score. The Scotsman took six shots, generating an Expected Goals (xG) tally of 0.89, even hitting the post. If this were last season, Morgan would’ve bagged a hat-trick. Thankfully, Andres Reyes salvaged a point on the night.

Speaking of Reyes, he’s been sensational to start the year. The “player for Europe”, as Gerhard Struber says, made the starting lineup in the latest MLS Team of the Week. Reyes had 10 clearances, 9 recoveries and won 8/9 aerial duels, he’s a towering presence. On the season, Reyes is 1st in MLS in challenges won (15), and aerial duels (13). His centerback partner, captain Sean Nealis – has the best challenge grade according to PFF FC on Twitter. The pairing of Reyes and Nealis against Cucho Hernandez and Lucas Zelarayan is a juicy matchup to watch.

But the biggest issue remains in attack. One goal scored thus far, and more importantly – one point out of nine to start the campaign. It’s the first time since 2014 the Red Bulls have failed to win their opening three games of a season. It’s up in the air whether Dante Vanzeir gets a full debut this weekend. Kyle Duncan could start again at right-back, although Cameron Harper stated he’s cleared concussion protocol and was in full training this week.

Columbus Crew showing signs of improvement under Wilfried Nancy

The Wilfried Nancy era is fully underway in Columbus. After three games, the Crew sit eighth in the Eastern Conference with a win, draw and a loss. The Crew will feel they should’ve gotten more out of their 1-1 draw at Trillium Cup rivals Toronto FC. Jimmy Medranda scored a sweet chip for an equalizer, minutes into his Crew debut. Young Aidan Morris was fantastic, with his assist for the leveler, and winning several interceptions and recoveries. The 21-year-old made the bench in the latest MLS Team of the Week.

Columbus are many peoples’ picks to return to the postseason. After missing out last year by two points, the Crew have the look of a team ready to put teams on notice. Lucas Zelarayan has two goals in three games and remains one of the league’s best playmakers. Morris and Darlington Nagbe make a formidable midfield pairing. And let’s not forget the dangerous Cucho Hernandez along with Alexandru Matan.

The Crew are improving, and will be a better outfit as the season rolls on. However, per FotMob – they rank the in the bottom third in clearances per match and successful tackles per match. Defense is a bit of a worry with their 3-4-2-1, already conceded five goals. Something the Red Bulls will look to exploit. Defender Will Sands and attacker Christian Ramirez are doubtful for Saturday night.

Prediction: Red Bulls 1-1 Columbus Crew

I’m sorry. Last week showed promising signs, but the Red Bulls must be more clinical in front of goal. Their defense has been awesome, but it’s the front half of the pitch that needs to get up to speed. New York hasn’t beaten the Crew at home since August 2021, while Columbus hasn’t won at Harrison since July 2019. The Crew are winless in their last nine road games, dating back to July 2022. Expect a late twist to this game. There’s been a result-changing goal in the 87th minute or later, in each of the last four games between the clubs. Matchup to watch: Colombian teammates Cucho Hernandez and Andres Reyes square off. It’s another even matchup in the Eastern Conference.

Photo Credit: Matt Blewett-USA TODAY of Sports of New York Red Bulls defender Andres Reyes (4) on Mar 11, 2023 at Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA