New York Red Bulls: playoff destiny is in their hands

New York Red Bulls player Omir Fernandez celebrates his goal at Red Bull Arena

The New York Red Bulls have kept fighting, and are three points off a playoff spot. It’s a remarkable uptick in the form that wasn’t foreshadowed during their rough summer malaise. Now, the youngest team in all of MLS has six games to do the improbable: make the postseason. New York is on a six-game unbeaten run, conceding just twice in that span.

The New York Red Bulls has control of their playoff destiny

Remaining games on the 2021 MLS schedule

Here’s the remaining schedule: home vs NYCFC, at Columbus Crew, at DC United, home vs CF Montréal, home vs Atlanta United, at Nashville SC. It is quite the gauntlet, in a tight Eastern Conference no less. Only the defending champion Columbus Crew sits below the Red Bulls at the table, everyone else sits above them. After beating Inter Miami on Saturday, momentum is all in favor of the Red Bulls.

“We knew that we needed to win the game and our situation would be much better because now we would have three points for the playoffs, but we have to just keep going,” Klimala said. “We have six games left and we want to win all those games.”

“This was a good start to come back and realize the gap is closing, but the next game is for our chest, and have to win, one, one, one, one, one more time and hopefully in the end, with our power, with our energy, with the quality and with the discipline, we can realize our big goal,” Struber said.

The first of this six-pack is the biggest, the third Hudson River Derby. It’s come as a surprise to many just how good the Red Bulls played at Yankee Stadium when the pair last met in September. Omir Fernandez scored the winner and has shined, scoring three goals. The loss of Anton Tinnerholm devastates the Cityzens. But the bigger worry is that City will enter Red Bull Arena winless in four matches.

Should the Red Bulls win, they’ll land within earshot of the playoff places. But then come two difficult matches. Away to Columbus has already haunted New York after losing a last-minute game to the Crew in mid-September. While it’s one thing trying to win a game, it’s another thing entirely to beat a team that’s desperate. That’s what the Crew will be after finding themselves on the outside looking in.

After that is another derby, one of the oldest in the league at DC United. One of the biggest surprises this year has been Hernan Losada’s squad currently in fifth place in the East. Ola Kamara is one of the top goalscorers in the league, yet the teams battled out a hard-fought 1-1 draw last time out on September 11. Both teams will press hard, and whoever makes the first mistake could be doomed to a loss.

Home games against Montreal and Atlanta will show some tactical battles worth watching. Montreal holds the last spot while Atlanta is one place, one point below the Canadian outfit. The Red Bulls’ home form has picked up recently so it’ll be interesting to see how New York unlocks these defenses. Lastly, and for the first time ever, is a road trip to Nashville. The second-placed Nashville SC has overwhelmed opponents all season and conceded the fewest goals in the East at 26. That team is a dark horse for MLS Cup.

Final Words:

All in all, it’s a road not many people could’ve seen coming into the fall. In Spain, they would call these games “finals”. So, six “finals” await Gerhard Struber and his players. Fitness will be key as many players have racked up a lot of minutes, some could miss out due to yellow card accumulation. For fans, it’s a ride worth taking, because it takes them to the unknown. Either way, to be in this position is a credit to a team and manager that’s grown and improved with every game. Six games against some of the best the East has to offer. Destiny is in the New York Red Bulls’ hands.

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