GIASE: "Minds are clear and we’re ready to go do it" as Red Bulls face Crew SC in second leg

Too many fans misuse the term ‘must-win’. They attach it to rivalry games or games that will help a team gain ground in the standings. And that’s not what it means.
 
Tonight, when the Red Bulls take on the Columbus Crew in the second leg of their Eastern Conference Final series at a sold-out Red Bull Arena, is the perfect example of a must-win game. The Red Bulls must win, because if they don’t their season is over.
 
“We’ve been in a few of these,” Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch said. “In the Open Cup we were in this situation with Philly (when the Red Bulls were eliminated in the quarterfinals). We understand that when we want to push the game what we want to look like, and then when we want to protect the game and what we want to look like, so I think there’s clarity.”
 
Midfielder Dax McCarty prefers to concentrate on another aspect about the game. Despite facing the possible end of the season, along with a two-goal deficit that needs to be made up, McCarty believes playing at home may be the deciding factor.
 
“Our mentality at home has always been to be really aggressive and to try and take the game to the other team. That’s not going to change,” McCarty said. “We have to be aggressive. We have to take the game to them. We can’t be stupid. We have to be a little cautious, especially when they’re attacking.
 
“They’ve proven throughout the whole season they’re a very dangerous team. They scored the second-most goals in the league this year for a reason. It’s because they’ve got a lot of dangerous players. It’s definitely not an easy task. It’s something we have to be mindful of, but we’re not going to change our mentality. We know what we have to do, our minds are clear and we’re ready to go do it.”
 
For the first time since the first-leg loss at Columbus, McCarty admitted how the team felt after giving up a goal nine seconds into the match, then allowing another with five minutes to play.
 
“I didn’t really talk too much about last game but last game we didn’t do too many things that we like to pride ourselves on,” he said. “The last game was a lot of stuff that we did that was sort of out of character for us, and Columbus punished us. That’s what good teams do in this league. If you don’t play to your best teams are going to punish you, and right from the opening whistle we weren’t ready. We certainly had a tough start to the game and we were rattled. We haven’t seen too many times in the season (that we) get rattled like that.
 
“It certainly was a tough atmosphere. Columbus is a really tough place to play regardless of what happens, and then you give up a goal 10 seconds in and it makes it even more difficult. We were rattled throughout the whole game, very uncharacteristic of us. A lot of guys, myself included, had some of their worst games of the year, and when you couple all that together with being in a tough place to play, it makes for a really tough environment and a really tough result that we have to overcome now.”
 
One thing the Red Bulls must correct for the second leg is their marking on Federico Higuain. The Crew midfielder had too much space and time with the ball, and that’s when he’s most dangerous.
 
“I thought Higuain was fantastic,” Marsch said. “Because of the way they play, if you can take him out of the rhythm a lot – their wild card factor is Higuain – and the way he can move around and invent plays and his eye for seeing things. We were disappointed with the fact that he had such a good game and that we allowed him too much space.
 
“We have to do a better job with that, and at the same time take care of (Ethan) Finlay and (Kei) Kamara and (Justin) Meram and (Harrison) Afful coming forward. They attacked very heavily down their right-hand side, which we knew ahead of time, and in a lot of ways it’s hard to prevent, but we have to do better on that side of the field.”
 
Crew defender Gaston Sauro will return following a one-game suspension. Even with a shutout last game, that will make the Crew defense better. It’s just another obstacle the Red Bulls will need to overcome.
 
“With Sauro coming back in the game, he’s one more factor that we have to include in both sides of the ball, but we’ve finished the season in the top three in attacking and defensive set pieces, and we feel strongly about how we deal with those situations,” Marsch said. “When we are able to handle that area of the game correctly that gives us a big advantage.”
 
Set pieces could be a key component to the game. Needing two goals, the Red Bulls could cut into the deficit with a goal off a penalty kick, corner kick or free kick rather than create something from the run of play. That will be important if the Crew goes into a defensive mode at some point, but the Red Bulls won’t wait around for that. They say they will attack from the opening whistle while still maintaining a defensive shape.
 
“We have to be aggressive,” McCarty said “They know we’re going to come out and try to be aggressive. We have to overcome a two-goal deficit and you’re not going to do that if you just sit back and just kind of wait and see what happens in the game. You have to take the game to them. You have to dictate the pace and tempo. All year we tried to do that at home and on the road. Sometimes it’s come back to bite us. That’s the only way we know how to play, to play aggressive.
 
“Columbus is a team that’s aggressive as well. We’ll see how they choose to approach it. They can come at you a couple of different ways, as they have proved already. We feel like, in our locker room, if we do the things that have made us successful all year, if we’re a little more tuned in to the little details in the game, we can be more successful than we were in Columbus.”
 
As the team’s leading scorer, forward Bradley Wright-Phillips might seem to be under the most pressure, but he quickly discounted that. His belief in the team concept enables him to focus on the task at hand.
 
“Whatever happens is going to happen,” he said. “We’ve got a game plan and we’ll try and carry it out. All season we scored goals. I don’t know what will make it different this game.”
 
So the Red Bulls need at least two goals in 90 minutes, along with a shutout, which will buy them 30 minutes of extra time to get a winning goal. Marsch says he doesn’t care when the goals come, just as long as they do.
 
“I would take four goals in the first half,” he said with a laugh, “but there has to be urgency but no panic. There’s plenty of time in this game. Honestly, if it’s zero-zero in the 85th minute and we get a goal in the 86th minute, this series is all up for grabs. That’s the key, for us to stay focused on the details of what we try to do when we play at home and how we play aggressively, but be ultra-focused on all the little details on not letting the game slip away.”

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