Crew Crush Red Bulls

(Red Bulls midfielder Mike Grella had a tough time in Columbus Saturday night – Photo by Mike Lawrence)

The New York Red Bulls lost a heartbreaker to the Columbus Crew SC, 2-1, on Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium. as Ethan Finlay got the game-winner in the 74th minute, and he had both goals for Columbus.

New York is now 6-6-5 on the season, with 23 points, and are 2-4-3 on the road. The Red Bulls finish a stretch of six matches in 19 days with a 4-2-0 record across all competitions – 2-2-0 in league play, including a win over New York City FC, and two wins in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, including a 4-1 drubbing of the New York Cosmos on Wednesday at Red Bull Arena.

Red Bulls midfielder Mike Grells on if the long stretch of games for New York was a factor tonight: “Yeah, without a doubt. I’m not sure what other team’s schedules were but it does play a factor. With saying that, no excuses, but we just fell a little bit short. Just more little mistakes in both boxes and we were not good enough in our final third and not good enough in our defending third.”

Red Bulls Head Coach Jesse Marsch said of his overall impressions of the game, “They altered their game plan a little bit and decided to play direct to Kei Kamara. It caused us trouble in the first half, which led to their first goal. We made adjustments at half. Because we had some tired legs, we were a little bit late on shifting and moving and covering spaces, and also they’re a good team. [Federico] Higuain’s floating around, he’s making good plays. They have fresher legs and on the day they’re able to get a grasp of the game more than we are. But great effort from our guys – they dug in deep, they gave everything they had. So we’re going to regroup and get ready to move forward.”

Anatole Abang kept his strong play going when he broke through for a goal in the eighth minute to give the Red Bulls an early 1-0 lead. The Cameroonian played a give-and-go with Bradley Wright-Phillips at midfield. Abang laid the ball off and received the return pass in stride. Abang took possession into the penalty area and placed a shot underneath a diving Steve Clark and in off the far post.

Marsch said of Abang’s goal and performance, “Abang has been a big threat and has been a big, physical presence for us. So it was a very good goal and it was a way we knew we could punish them by making their defenders turn and have to run and deal with our athleticism and our pace. We just weren’t able to get in more of those plays going, but again, this one for me, the guys dug in deep and emptied the tanks, and we’ve got to keep our heads up and keep going.”

Mike Grella had a chance to give the Red Bulls a two-goal edge minutes later, cutting across the top of the box and putting a shot just wide.

Columbus pulled level in the 33rd minute, when a long pass from Steve Clark was headed on by Kei Kamara to winger Ethan Finlay. Finlay worked into space on the right side of the box and fired a shot by Luis Robles to the far side.

Wright-Phillips shifted into his normal forward position in the second half after Abang was replaced by Sal Zizzo. Zizzo subsequently found Wright-Phillips with a long pass, which Wright-Phillips ran onto and fired just over the crossbar.

Finlay earned his second brace of the season with a goal in the 74th minute. Federico Higuain put a cross in for Kei Kamara to head back across the box, giving Finlay an easy finish from close range.

Robles was instrumental in keeping the game close, making several big saves in the second half. Robles was credited with four saves on the night. His best came in the 82nd minute in the form of a full-stretch diving save to deny Kamara, MLS’ leading scorer.

Steve Clark replied minutes later by denying a header from Wright-Phillips with a diving save of his own to keep the points in Columbus.

Grella said of the game, “[The loss is] disappointing. We had a lead in the game and we had chances to go ahead and take control and I thought we were better than them for large parts of the game. We just didn’t come away with the result. It’s been a long stretch, so we will go back and get some rest and be ready to go for next week.”

Red Bulls midfielder Sean Davis on tonight’s match: “I think the guys really emptied their tanks, everyone put everything they had into it after a tough stretch of games, so we are really proud of the guys and we are holding our heads high.”

Davis on why Columbus was effective:They really use every inch of the field, they really spread themselves out well and they are good at keeping the ball. We knew that coming in, it was similar to the last game [against Columbus]. It was a tough match that really requires everyone to work really hard. You put a lot into it and that’s how Columbus will beat you.”

The Red Bulls host the New England Revolution next Saturday night. Marsch said of the priorities heading into that game, “Right now, it’s physically and mentally recharging because we’ve put a lot into these last three weeks. Credit goes to the guys. Going into those we knew we were coming out of a losing stretch, and they all dug in. We got contributions from a lot of different players and, overall, I thought we had a lot of good games in there and good moments. So it’s a tough way to end but we’re going to take it, swallow it and move forward.”

Grella on the focus for next week’s match with New England:We have a couple days off now, it will be good to mentally and physically get a small little break. We’ll be ready to go. This is such a positive group, such a positive place and we will be ready to kick on. Like I’ve said many times, this is a really long season, we’re not down, we’re just going to continue to work as hard as we possibly can and the results will come.”

Davis said of the New England match, “I think the most important thing is to rest up, take care of ourselves the right way and then get back to training and have a positive mindset going into this game, it is a big clash so it should be exciting.”



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