Pregame: The Finals
These teams should be familiar with each other. They played three times this year. The Crew has a scary 1 win, 2 loss record against the Red Bulls this year, but remember that New York plays on turf and the Crew don’t. You can’t overemphasize how bad Columbus plays on turf. That will be the nice thing about L.A.: (aside from the perfect weather) no turf. While any final is not a sure thing, I have to like the Crew’s chances against a Red Bulls team that has gotten here through a fair amount of luck.
Crew on Offense: Schelotto. The team may be able to win without him, but I can guarantee they won’t have to. I have never seen a player raise his game like he did against Chicago. It was a virtuoso performance. He was involved in the offense and pressed on defense. This is a guy who is just a winner.
It will help that the Crew have a great supporting cast. Rogers and Gaven have the ability to stretch a defense by getting wide. They can fire in the occasional cross and certainly can find the seams to cut inside. That will be very useful against a defense that has been shuffling personnel all year. I am also excited to see what Moreno is able to do. He can do the “dirty work” and draw those fouls in dangerous positions.
The offense has the ability to cause any teams problems. Kansas City and Chicago found this out already. The Red Bulls will have to play the perfect game to stop the Crew over 90 minutes. I just see to much Columbus applying too much skill for the Red Bulls to shut them down.
Crew on Defense: Angel, Richards, and van den Bergh. The Red Bulls have talent, but most of this talent is streaky. Richards had a great game against Houston, but has disappeared many times this year. Angel is a classic striker. He can score at any time, but he can also disappear for games at a time. van den Bergh however is the engine that makes the Red Bulls go. He can set up and score goals.
The Crew defense is well stocked with players well equipped to neutralize these threats. Chad Marshall is playing perhaps his last game in a Crew uniform. He will be ready to show any suitor that he is the best defender in the league. He has the tools to shut down a player like Angel. Hejduk and Padula are veterans who can overcome a speed advantage with veteran savvy, positioning, and even a little speed of their own. Brian Carroll and Brad Evans will need to play a great game to nullify van den Bergh. If they do that, the Red Bulls are a whole lot less dangerous.
Final Thoughts: The Crew are a focused team. With Schelotto in the lead and Hejduk captaining the side, Columbus won’t be looking past New York. Coach Schmid is familiar with big games and will know what to expect as well. I will be nervous for this game; I always am, but the team has shown a level of dedication, skill, and passion that is championship caliber. They will show it tomorrow. Go Crew!
Crew 2 – NYRB 0