2019 MLS Week 21 Preview — New York Red Bulls (9-8-6) vs. Columbus Crew SC (6-3-14)

The New York Red Bulls look to enter the All-Star break on a positive note and run their home winning streak to four matches Saturday night when they host the Columbus Crew.

New York (9-8-6) is four points behind Philadelphia for the Eastern Conference lead entering play this weekend and unbeaten in its last five (4-1-0) at Red Bull Arena. The Red Bulls gained a split from their two road matches last week, picking up a vital three points Sunday after beating Orlando City SC 1-0.

The victory moved the Red Bulls into second place, ahead of D.C. United on goal difference. Brian White’s goal in the 32nd minute stood as the winner, but Chris Armas’ team got plenty of help from the woodwork as the Lions hit the crossbar and post three times in the final half-hour.

“If you rewatch the game, we were a little lucky, but we’ll take it,” Daniel Royer said Wednesday. “It was good for the morale, to dig in and defend as a team because we were under a lot of pressure.”

Defender Aaron Long continues to be the subject of rumors for a possible transfer abroad to Europe. Voted the MLS Defender of the Year last year and selected to the Gold Cup Best XI this summer after helping the U.S. reach the final, Long has been linked to West Ham United in the Premier League and has a release clause of $5 million.

The Red Bulls reportedly turned down an offer for Long last week believed to be worth $3 million, and the defender signed a contract with the Red Bulls before the season that reportedly guarantees him at least $800,000. The process is nothing new for New York, which had midfielder Tyler Adams draw interest abroad last season before joining RB Leipzig in January.

Columbus (6-3-14) is looking to go unbeaten in three matches for the first time since opening the season with a seven of a possible nine points. The Crew halted a 10-match winless spell (0-2-8) with a 2-1 victory over Montreal on Saturday when David Accam’s goal just after the restart stood as the match-winner.

Caleb Porter’s team has played better following the return of their three top players – keeper Zach Steffen, midfielder Wil Trapp and striker Gyasi Zardes – following their turn for the U.S. at the Gold Cup, and he feels the results are reflecting his side’s efforts.

“A big part of the last three games and (why) our performances have improved, (is) we’ve got key guys back. Let’s be honest about that,” Porter told the team’s official website. “… Each game is another brick in the wall, and this is another couple bricks in the wall. We’re slowly building it. I’m just glad they finally got rewarded with a result because that’s important and our confidence will build.”

Last week’s matches also marked just the second time this season the Crew have scored at least two goals in back-to-back matches. Columbus is tied with first-year club FC Cincinnati for the fewest goals in the league with 21.

The teams opened the season with a 1-1 draw in Columbus on March 2 as Andreas Ivan’s goal in the sixth minute for New York was canceled out by Gaston Sauro’s equalizer four minutes before halftime. The Crew hold a slim 33-12-32 lead in the all-time series but have just two wins in their last 11 road matches (2-2-7) versus the Red Bulls.

(Aaron Long photo courtesy Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports)

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