After picking up their second consecutive win, the Columbus Crew return home on Saturday afternoon to vie with the New York Red Bulls (3:00). The winner will move into sole possession of second place in the Eastern Conference.
The Crew most recently defeated Toronto at BMO Field, 1-0. The Red Bulls defeated the Montreal Impact at home last Saturday, 5-2.
The starting XI for Columbus will more than likely remain the same, including Eric Gehrig in center defense. Danny O’Rourke is still battling a knee injury. Dilly Duka is expected to return to action, but he isn’t fit enough to play the full 90 minutes. Expect Bernardo Anor to start at left-midfield and Duka to come off the bench.
New York’s attack is sustained by the forward duo of Theirry Henry and Kenny Cooper. Henry already has five goals and three assists in 2012, and Cooper has four goals. Together, they have had a hand in each of the Red Bulls’ league-leading ten goals.
However, while New York is scoring a lot, they have also given up seven goals through their first four games, tied for second worst in MLS. To make matters even worse for the Red Bulls, midfielder Teemu Tainio is out for four to six weeks with knee ligament damage. Starting defender WIlliam Conde is also questionable with a groin strain.
Columbus’ defense, coming off of two straight shutouts, will have a tough task on Saturday. If they can keep New York’s pair of forwards in check, and left-back Shaun Francis can defend against Dane Richards, the Crew have a great chance of winning in front of the home crowd.
Prediction: Crew 3-2 Red Bulls
This game has all the facets of a high-scoring game. New York’s attack can be lethal, but their defense can leak goals like an old kitchen faucet. The Crew will pull ahead early, and the goals will flow from that point on. With New York’s week defense, Columbus will score enough to earn a victory.