The 2016 MLS regular season is winding down for the New York Red Bulls. Currently sitting tied for third-place in the Eastern Conference with ten games left, now is the time for the team and head coach Jesse Marsch to show what they are made of.
With new signings arriving and a precious few chances left to accumulate points, a push for the number one seed in the conference will be critical to success. As well as home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, the number one seed will greatly increase the chances of Red Bull Arena hosting MLS Cup 2016 and qualifying for next season’s CONCACAF Champions League.
As the team gets set for an important few months ahead, we highlight three games that will be pivotal to the Eastern Conference playoff race for the Red Bulls.
Three Critical 2016 Regular Season Games Left For The New York Red Bulls
Saturday August 13th: vs. Montreal Impact (Red Bull Arena, 7PM EST)
At the risk of adding hype to the very next match that they happen to be playing, Saturday’s contest against the Montreal Impact will be incredibly important for the Red Bulls.
The two clubs sit tied in third-place on 33 points each, but Montreal has two games in hand. A misstep at home for New York could set the Impact up for a major climb in the standings. With New York’s struggles on the road this season keeping total point tallies down, it is essential for the Red Bulls to find wins at home the rest of the way in 2016.
With only four points separating New York and Montreal from first-place NYCFC, Saturday night’s result will be important for Jesse March and his squad moving forward towards the postseason. With injuries on the backline, New York’s defense will need to properly account for Didier Drogba and Ignacio Piatti.
Sunday September 18th: at Toronto FC (BMO Field, 7PM EST)
A nationally televised match against Toronto FC will be important for two reasons.
First, gaining points on the road might as well be the overall theme for the Red Bulls during this final stretch of the regular season. And secondly, they have to find a way to stop reigning league MVP Sebastian Giovinco and overtake Toronto in the standings.
Currently a point ahead of New York in second place, Toronto have a game in hand and look to be hitting their stride as key players return from injuries. Silencing former Red Bull/Metros Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley will be a key to success in this contest.
Sunday October 23rd: at Philadelphia Union (Talen Energy Stadium, 4PM EST)
The final game of the regular season will most likely be important for final playoff positions. A third visit to the Philadelphia Union in 2016 will have the Red Bulls anxious to make amends for two late game collapses earlier this season.
In both the regular season and in the U.S. Open Cup, New York saw second-half leads evaporate in similar fashions in Philadelphia. The addition of USMNT midfielder Alejandro Bedoya has the Union expecting a strong postseason push after missing the playoffs last year.
By this point, the Red Bulls will be hoping midfield captain Dax McCarty is fit and back in the starting lineup. Only two points behind New York currently, the difference between an Eastern Conference first-round bye and playing in a wild-card knockout game could come down to this crucial match in Chester, PA.