A lengthy unbeaten streak has put the New York Red Bulls atop the Eastern Conference.
Muddled in inconsistency, the Columbus Crew would like to begin a streak of their own.
New York will try to extend its unbeaten run to seven games Sunday as it hosts Columbus.
With 24 points, the Red Bulls (7-4-3) are tied with FC Dallas for the league’s most. New York has reeled off wins in five of six matches, including a 1-0 victory at Columbus on May 4 - its third straight in the series.
The Red Bulls own an 11-4 edge in goal differential during the current 5-0-1 run after yielding 11 goals in the previous eight matches.
“When you win, it’s always great,” said Thierry Henry, New York’s leader with five goals. “My mind is more on the bigger picture. How you can improve and stay there … We know we have a good defense right now. We struggled at the beginning with it and now we’re good with it. Now it’s just a matter of playing better. Hopefully we can do that and beat Columbus.”
Tim Cahill has provided a spark with four goals over the last five matches, including the winner on a header in stoppage time for a 1-0 victory over Los Angeles last Sunday.
“I can’t say enough about Tim,” coach Mike Petke said of Cahill, who was scoreless in his first eight matches. “Now he’s scoring goals and everyone says he’s playing great. Well, I always thought he was playing great.”
Columbus (4-4-3) avoided a third straight loss with a 1-0 win at Toronto FC last Saturday. The Crew haven’t done much to differentiate themselves in the middle of the East, with their four wins coming against D.C. United, Chivas USA and Toronto - three of the league’s worst teams record-wise.
Sunday’s match is the first of four straight for the Crew against teams ahead of them in the East, with home matches against Houston and Montreal as well as a game at Philadelphia.
“We have to win the games against the teams in our conference,” coach Robert Warzycha told the team’s official website. “It’s as simple as that, whether they’re on the bottom or the top. But obviously, it would be better against the teams that are higher than us.”
Warzycha will have to make some adjustments with two key defenders out of action. Chad Marshall will miss his second straight match with a hamstring injury while fellow centerback Glauber serves a suspension after receiving his fifth yellow card.
Eric Gehrig filled in for Marshall against Toronto, while Columbus could use a number of options to help replace Glauber, including Agustin Viana, who has been out for three matches with a strained hamstring.
“No matter who is in there, I think every one of our players is very capable of doing the job,” Gehrig said. “While it might not be ideal as far as chemistry goes, these things happen in MLS.”
A win by New York would even this all-time series at 26-26-7.
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