When the season commenced, there was plenty of outcry from both fans and front office staff about the Red Bulls schedule. No Los Angeles Galaxy match at Red Bull Arena? Two of three matches played away against DC United and the Philadelphia Union? A slew of midweek and Sunday matches? And what is this midweek matinee in the middle of July?
Surely, there was much to fret about. What was missed through all the fuss was perhaps the greatest helping hand the Red Bulls could have asked for; five out of seven games at home to end the season. In a league where schedules and home games can build invaluable late season momentum, a little home cooking can go an awful long way.
The Red Bulls now face their final six matches of the year – four which will be at home. Their emphatic win against the Crew was a nice start, but the team is certainly looking forward to more.
“I think it’s crucial we just concentrate on Wednesday,” Red Bulls Designated Player Tim Cahill said. “As a footballer in my past, in the history of playing football, when you start worrying about too much ahead things start to go wrong. The main thing now is Wednesday and how we’re going to regroup, how we’re going to recuperate.
“The performance needs to be that high again and we have to back it up. I think we are getting to that, the fitness, the football. I just feel one game at a time is the key at the moment to success.”
Their home cooking continues Wednesday night when New York hosts Sporting Kansas City in a battle for first in the East. It will be the first of two matches at Red Bull Arena – another nod to good fortune New York fans didn’t realize they had when the unbalanced schedule was revealed.
Against Kansas City, you have one of two remaining undefeated home sides in Major League Soccer (the Red Bulls are 10-0-3 at home while the Dynamo are 9-0-5 at BBVA) facing the best road team in the league (7-4-2). Much like the Columbus match Saturday, both teams are expecting a wide open encounter in this crucial midweek clash.
“Away from home, drawing with the top team in the league, I found they were very physical and they played the long ball,” Cahill continued. “They got the ball wide and they seemed to lump the ball a lot but the thing is they got some good wingers who are very tricky, that can cut back in and cross it. They love winning free kicks and set plays. We’re going to concentrate on what we’re good at as well and try to break them down like we did (against the Crew). Sometimes it takes 80-90 minutes for us to win a game but the good thing is we are being patient.”
Red Bulls Coach Hans Backe had his own reservations about the match as well. “You are not able to train,” he noted. “We had it last week, we said ‘ok, this upcoming week we have to get sharp.’ We had phenomenal sessions, probably the five best sessions the whole year I would say, competitive, intense sessions.
“We know we are two points behind and a win and we are number one. We would like to win the Eastern Conference. We gave ourselves a decent chances (by beating the Crew).”
The Red Bulls will round out a busy week in the unfriendly confines of Gillette Stadium. From there, they will enjoy a three game homestand against the lowly TFC followed by match-ups against fellow playoff contenders Chicago Fire and Sporting KC for a final time. They round out their season against the up and down Philadelphia Union.