Game 1 of the MLS Eastern Conference Final between the Columbus Crew and the New York Red Bulls kicks off at 5:00 p.m. ET at the MAPFRE Stadium, Columbus, Ohio.
The New York Red Bulls, which has been dismissed early in the MLS series to struggle with the absence of former club captain Thierry Henry and a new head coach in Jesse Marsch, who replaced club legend and former boss Mike Petke, will be pitting against the Columbus Crew SC side that has seen impressive contributions all across the board.
Sierra Leone international Kei Kamara and MVP candidate had a career year in 2015 scoring 22 goals (tied for the most in MLS with Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco) and contributed eight assists. Kamara's strong performance this season saw him scoring two goals against the Montreal Impact in the second leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. That goal sent the Crew SC to their first Eastern Conference Championship since 2008, last year they won MLS Cup against the Red Bulls.
The Red Bulls also have to watch Ethan Finlay, who is enjoying his finest season as a professional as well with career-highs of 12 goals and 13 assists. Finlay and Kamara's understanding of the field was such that Finlay's six assists on Kamara's goals led MLS.
Homegrown star Wil Trapp returned from a lengthy spell on the sidelines, to be a leader in the heart of the Columbus midfield. The mature midfielder was recently named the No. 4 player on MLSsoccer.com's annual 24 Under 24 list and was the team captain for the USA U-23 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying campaign. The Red Bulls won the regular season series against Columbus (2-1-0), but Crew SC can point to their 3-0-0 all-time postseason record against New York as fuel to their MLS Cup hopes.
Columbus Crew to Add Seats at MAPFRE Stadium
Meanwhile, Columbus Crew SC announced plans to expand MAPFRE Stadium's capacity ahead of the first leg of the Eastern Conference Championship against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday with a sell-out rapidly approaching.
"As of this afternoon, all of MAPFRE Stadium's lower level is already sold out and as such, the Black & Gold are adding temporary general-admission bleacher seating on MAPFRE Stadium's stage on the north side of the venue to accommodate extra supporters," explained the club in a statement. "The majority of the upper-level seats for the match are already sold out."
The seating for the Nordecke, Crew SC's main supporters' group section, will also be expanded to include the entirety of Section 102, which has already sold out.
How to Watch Online Conference Finals, Radio Stations
To watch Game 1 of the Columbus Crew vs. New York Red Bulls Eastern Conference showdown live online, go to the official WatchESPN website and log in with credentials from any major cable or satellite provider to access live, streaming video of the crucial MLS matchup.
Because the match is televised on ESPN, WatchESPN - or the WatchESPN app for mobile devices - is the only way to watch the game live online. Subscribers who paid the $74 fee for the MLS Live streaming service will find the game blacked out online. You can also watch free live streaming at Cric Free or via LiveSoccer TV.
There is one other available method to watch New York Red Bulls vs. Columbus Crew SC online for free, without login info from a cable or satellite TV provider. The Sling TV Internet package includes ESPN and is available for a one-week free trial.