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Crew-Red Bulls Preview
By JUSTIN EINHORN
(AP) -- It's been quite a while since the New York Red Bulls last played. It doesn't compare to the amount of time that's passed since an opponent earned a victory on their home field.
The Columbus Crew rarely win at Red Bull Arena and now will try to become the first visiting team to win there since last year as these Eastern Conference playoff hopefuls meet Saturday night.
Both teams have seven games remaining and are coming off lengthy breaks.
The Red Bulls (13-7-7) haven't played since Aug. 29, and coach Hans Backe gave his players last week off. They closed last month on a 2-0-2 run, earning draws at Kansas City and D.C. in their last two matches.
"I think the break came perfect because we had been on the road, tough games," Backe told the team's official website. "Mentally wise I think it was very good to get this break."
Columbus (12-9-6) has played twice since New York last did, though its most recent match was Sept. 5. That 2-0 loss at New England snapped a four-game winning streak.
The Crew return with a one-point edge over United for the fifth and final playoff spot in the East. They're four points behind the Red Bulls.
"This is the first step in the last seven games of the season where we can make a good push to get into the playoffs," goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum told Columbus' official website. "To be successful, you need to beat teams like (New York) and get results on the road."
That will be a tall order considering the Red Bulls are 9-0-3 at home - Houston is the only other team without a home loss - and the Crew have won once in their last 13 visits. They've been limited to 10 goals during that 1-8-4 stretch.
Columbus is 2-4-1 over its last seven road games.
"We all know New York is one of the best teams in the league. I think they have the best style of play," defender Josh Williams said, "... but we're going in there with the mindset of getting three points and nothing less."
The Red Bulls have won four straight home games and the only goals they've allowed in that span came in the most recent one, falling into a two-goal hole before rallying past Portland 3-2 on Aug. 19.
Kenny Cooper triggered that comeback with his team-leading 14th goal, but that's his only one in six matches. Cooper had two goals when the Red Bulls won 4-1 at Columbus on April 7.
Thierry Henry scored the other two and assisted on one. Henry has 11 goals but none over the last four matches.
Gruenebaum gave up all four goals in that April meeting - he's 0-4-1 lifetime against New York - and has no shutouts in his last eight starts overall.
The Crew, however, have made many changes since that matchup, including the addition of Jairo Arrieta (five goals in 11 games) as well as Federico Higuain (three goals, six assists in six games).
"It's one we'd all like to forget," midfielder Eddie Gaven said of the last game against New York. "We're going there to try and prove that game was a fluke and that's not the team we really are."
Updated September 14, 2012