Gerhard Struber and Caleb Porter have both demanded swift responses from their sides, as the New York Red Bulls prepare to host Columbus Crew on Wednesday.
The Red Bulls are without a win since July 4, a run of seven games, while reigning MLS Cup champions Columbus have lost their last four matches.
Ahead of their first meeting of 2021, the Red Bulls sit 11th, with the Crew in eighth place.
For Red Bulls boss Struber, a run into the playoff places is the immediate target.
“The playoffs is a clear goal for us, and we fight and we work for this goal,” said Stuber.
“I cannot remember that we speak about the Supporters’ Shield or other dreams. We always speak about the big vision, we build up a team with a clear goal this season to come one more time in the playoff.
“I think this is very, very important.
“We just have to put 90 minutes together, like it’s pretty simple. It’s not like we’re getting blown away or something like that. I’ve been on teams that are far worse and we’re not a bad team, it’s just we have to put 90 minutes together, honestly. That’s really all I can say on that.”
Porter, meanwhile, believes the fine margins have just quite not been going Columbus’ way in their recent dismal run.
“The margins are very slim in these road games,” Porter said.
“We have to turn around and go again two days later. I think that’s the key – we have to keep going and build off the good defensive things that we improved on – the start of the game – and work on that final third. We need to improve in that aspect.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
New York Red Bulls – Cristian Casseres
Casseres is the Red Bulls’ joint-leading scorer with four goals. However, he has not netted since the start of July, and Struber needs the 21-year-old to return to scoring form.
Columbus Crew – Bradley Wright-Phillips
Wright-Phillips is the Red Bulls’ record goalscorer, though he is now at Columbus. However, the veteran campaigner has not netted an MLS goal yet for the Crew.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– The Crew have won three straight matches against the Red Bulls, including a 3-2 victory in last season’s playoffs. This is Columbus’s first three-match winning streak over the Red Bulls since June 2001 to March 2002 as the Crew have just one four-match winning streak in the series, from May 1997 to June 1998.
– The Red Bulls winless run extended to seven games (D3 L4) after a 2-1 loss against CF Montreal on Saturday after leading 1-0. New York has lost an MLS-high 16 points from winning positions this season, including 10 during this winless run alone.
– The Crew have lost four straight matches, their longest losing streak since dropping five in a row in June-July 2019. Columbus had lost three of its previous 20 matches (W11 D6, including playoffs) prior to this losing streak.
– The Victor Wanyama penalty against the Red Bulls was the first 98th-minute winning goal scored in MLS since Erik Sorga scored at 97:29 for D.C. United against the Red Bulls in September 2020.
– The Crew’s four-match losing streak is the first by a defending MLS Cup champion since Sporting Kansas City in August-September 2014. The last reigning champion with a longer losing streak was LA Galaxy, who lost seven straight in May-June 2006.