Although satisfied with the 2-0 performance against Portland Saturday night at Red Bull Arena, the general feeling around Red Bulls practice Tuesday afternoon at Montclair State University was that this team knows it can’t get complacent. Heading into this weekend’s match against Toronto, everyone is well aware that there is still work to be done.
“It’s the most important time now,” said head coach Hans Backe. “[The goal is to] try to get into the playoffs and be stronger than all the other teams. That’s the key.”
Goalkeeper Frank Rost looked spot on in net during 5v5 play, stopping a few point blank shots off the foot of Dane Richards while also getting just enough of a touch on a few others to keep them away from his cage. Although obviously distraught over not seeing his shots hit the mark, Richards was quick to compliment Rost’s leadership on the pitch.
“Frank? Frank is like a [German] leader back there,” he joked after practice. “He’ll help us keep a clean sheet.”
As the regular season schedule continues to shrink and the final standings in the Eastern Conference will likely come down to the wire, teams on the outside of the playoffs picture will hope to close out strong and make a legitimate push. Teams currently in the bubble for postseason play – teams like the Red Bulls – are not ignoring the tight race either.
“With four games to go everyone is very aware of what it means,” said Backe. “As we said before Portland, every game is a Cup final now.”
But the Red Bulls aren’t in a spot right now where they are expected to watch the scoreboard in other matches or mathematically figure out point totals needed to make the postseason. The task is simple, according the midfielder Dax McCarty.
“For us it’s going to be about the New York Red Bulls and how we perform on a daily basis. And then obviously when we have those games it’s all about getting three points from hereon out.”
McCarty was also quick to suggest the Toronto team that awaits the Red Bulls on Saturday is much different than the Toronto team that lost to the Red Bulls 5-0 in early July.
“For us it’s all about knowing that we’re going into a really tough place to play,” said McCarty. “We’re playing against a team that’s much improved from when we played them last time.”
“I think we know that we control our own destiny,” he added. “We play two teams above us in the standings in Philadelphia and Kansas City, and those are games we have to win.”
The Red Bulls kick off Saturday against Toronto at 7:30 ET. Watch all of the action live on Fox Soccer.