Red Bull New York is on a roll at the moment, but its impressive two-game winning streak will be put to the test on Saturday when it heads to Ohio to face the Columbus Crew.
A short home-stand helped the Red Bulls overturn a poor start that saw the team lose at FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake. With two successive home wins, New York climbed to second place in the Eastern Conference on goal differential.
It is not the fact that the Red Bulls won two straight games at home that is impressive, but instead how convincing the two wins turned out to be. Hans Backe's side edged the Colorado Rapids and expansion Montreal Impact by a combined score of 9-3 with Thierry Henry netting five goals en route to Major League Soccer Player of the Month honors. Henry's strike partner, Kenny Cooper, also chipped in with three goals in the two-game stretch.
Despite the vast success that New York has experienced over the past two contests, Backe still sees room for improvement on the offensive side of the ball, especially now that the Red Bulls are back on the road.
"We need probably a little bit more from our wide players when we're on the road," Backe told the club's website. "Wide right, wide left has to be a little more creative. I think that is the key.
"It's too many side passes, back passes when you have the possibility to take [opponents] on. It's to encourage these guys that in the attacking game that you need to take chances and not only play safe."
That attacking onus will fall on Joel Lindpere on the left and Dane Richards on the right, both of whom have been uncharacteristically quiet in the opening stages of the season. If they Red Bulls wish to be legitimate contenders for MLS Cup, Lindpere and Richards will need to show more danger in attack, starting in Columbus on Saturday.
It will be up to the Crew to try and thwart that potent Red Bulls attack, something they are more than equipped to accomplish. Columbus, also sitting on six points, employs a staunch defense that has conceded just two goals to New York's seven.
With New York's clinical finishing of late, Columbus acknowledged that the best way to stop Henry and Cooper is to deny them the ball.
"We need to be disciplined, be compact in the back and not let easy balls beat us," Crew captain Chad Marshall told the club's website. "They like to play long balls over the top to try and find [Cooper and Henry]. We've got to hold a good line and stay with the runners."
The Crew have only managed three goals in as many games this season, but head coach Robert Warzycha recognized New York's porous defense as an opportunity to start scoring.
"[New York] has scored nine goals [in the last two matches], but they've given up seven [this season]," Warzycha told TheCrew.com. "That's a chance for us to go in and pressure them and force them to make mistakes."