Columbus Crew head coach Wilfried Nancy believes the key to getting the better of the New York Red Bulls on Saturday is to stop their opponent from playing “a ping-pong game”.
The Red Bulls, who have taken just two points from their opening three games of the 2023 MLS season, favor a high-press system under Gerhard Struber.
Columbus is winless in nine league games on its travels stretching into last season, but Nancy hopes his players can rise to the challenge at Red Bull Arena.
“They want to create chaotic environment, a ping-pong game, a transition game. The idea is to slow down play and speed it up when there’s a good moment,” Nancy said. “It’s not easy to do it against them as they put you under a lot of pressure. This is why I like to play against them – it’s a good exercise to see if my players are brave on the ball.
“The challenge I give to my team, all the time, is they have to stay composed with the ball. It’s key – if we rush the play this is what (opponents) want.”
The Crew followed up defeat to the Philadelphia Union on the opening weekend with a 1-0 win against D.C. United and a 1-1 draw at Toronto FC last time out.
New York is winless in its first three matches of a season for the first time since 2014, meanwhile, and head coach Struber is desperate for that first win of the campaign.
“I think the most relief you can get is always a victory,” he said. “The most important thing is we fight and leave everything on the field. That way we can celebrate a victory.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
New York Red Bulls – Carlos Coronel
Despite failing to win through their first three games, the Red Bulls have been pretty solid defensively on the whole, facing only three shots on target so far. That is the fewest number of any side at this stage since the LA Galaxy in 2010 (also three).
However, two of those shots have found a way past goalkeeper Coronel, who will not be pleased with that return.
Columbus – Jimmy Medranda
Medranda made an instant impact against Toronto with an impressive finish just two minutes after being introduced from the substitutes’ bench. The Colombian, who missed the Crew’s opening two games, is one of four players since 2013 to have scored 10 goals or more with at least half coming from outside the box.
MATCH PREDICTION – DRAW
– The Crew may not have won on their travels since July, but they have avoided defeat in 10 of their past 13 road matches.
– Columbus has a mixed record against NYRB, with the sides sharing two wins apiece and a draw across that period.
– All four of the Crew’s wins in that sequence were decided by a single goal, so another tight encounter can be expected at Red Bull Arena.
OPTA WIN PROBABILITY
New York Red Bulls – 43.3 percent
Columbus – 27.8 percent
Draw – 28.9 percent