MATCH PREVIEW: Red Bulls vs. Crew

The New York Red Bulls are set to host the Columbus Crew on Sunday afternoon in a match that will further clarify the playoff picture. The Red Bulls are currently in fourth place with 47 points, one point ahead of Columbus. Only six points separate fifth and second place as the MLS season enters its final two weeks.

MLS Standings

October 17 will be the third and final meeting between the sides, with the Red Bulls drawing 1-1 at Crew Stadium in April, and defeating a 10-man Columbus 4-1 at Red Bull Arena in July. Dating back to the 2011 season, the Red Bulls are 4-1-4 against the Crew.

New York Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke on Columbus:

Columbus is a very talented team. They’re a team I respect and enjoy watching, because they are not afraid to play under pressure. For us, it’s about the balance…they love to spread teams out and build through the midfield with the numbers up, so we need to be very on the ball.”

The Red Bulls return to action after a 3-1 victory against Toronto FC in the second of their three game homestand. Bradley Wright-Phillips notched his 25th goal of the season to open the scoring, and was soon followed up by goals from Ruben Bover and Dax McCarty to make it 3-0 by halftime.

New York welcomes back Ambroise Oyongo (Cameroon), Roy Miller (Costa Rica), and Matt Miazga (United States U-23) from international duty, in addition to Peguy Luyindula who served a one game suspension for a dangerous tackle against the Houston Dynamo on October 4. Tim Cahill (Australia) also returns from international duty, but will serve a one game suspension for his red card against Houston.

For strike partners Thierry Henry and Bradley Wright-Phillips, both will be looking to continue their previous strong form against the Crew. Henry scored one goal and assisted three times in their last match, while MLS Golden Boot leader Wright-Phillips has scored once in each game against Columbus this year. Bradley Wright-Phillips is only two goals away from tying MLS’s single-season scoring record of 27, and only two matches remain in The Chase For 28.

New York Red Bulls forward Thierry Henry on the mindset of the team going forward:

We’re happy, but now we’re going to have to make sure that we can be in a good position now to try and avoid maybe that first Wild Card game or to beat the team that receives that game so we’ll see.”

The Columbus Crew have all but clinched their spot in the playoffs, needing just one point to confirm their spot. Toronto FC are in sixth place and six points behind Columbus, but because of goal differential are essentially eliminated. The Crew are 3-1-1 in their last five matches, and scored three unanswered goals in their last match to defeat the Philadelphia Union 3-2 at PPL Park.

Federico Higuain is the Crew’s star Designated Player and returns from suspension due to yellow card accumulation. With his 11 goals and six assists, he leads the team and will need to capitalize on his scoring chances to battle a Red Bulls team who has scored more goals at home than any other team in the Eastern Conference with 37.

Coverage of Sunday’s match at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J. will begin at 3:00 p.m. (TV: MSG, UniMas). For tips or further directions on how to get to the game, check out the Red Bull Arena Transportation HUB.