UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. — Having won two of their last three games, the Red Bulls are suddenly back in the mix for the playoffs and, surprisingly, are just five points back from the top of the Eastern Conference.
The message in training this week has been for New York to focus on themselves and not on all the postseason jockeying going on around them. The Red Bulls had endured a rough two months prior to returning to winning ways, recording only one victory in league play during that stretch.
Now, with a trip to BMO Field to face Toronto FC on Saturday (7:30 pm ET; FOX Soccer/TSN2), the Red Bulls are more concerned about their play than either scoreboard watching or the current form of their opponents.
“We just have to do what we can do and not concentrate on others. Maybe that’s what we were doing sometime during the season,” captain Thierry Henry said. “You have to go and take care of yourself and see what you can do.”
It is a shift in focus from the trap they had set earlier in the season, when New York were perhaps too preoccupied with what was going on around them.
Part of that comes in training for the Red Bulls, who have been noticeably looser since getting wins against FC Dallas on the road and then against Portland last Saturday. There was an emphasis on small-sided games on Thursday and not too much tactical work, perhaps a sign that it is more important for the Red Bulls to just play their game and not focus quite as much on what Toronto might try to do.
“I think sometimes to free your head, you need to go out there and go back to basics - play the game and go back to wanting to win, even in training,” Henry said. “Winning all those little tournaments we do in training sometimes can bring that confidence back. You saw that in Dallas and in Portland, maybe it wasn’t one of the best games in the world. We had to win – we won.
“We are in a good momentum, we are going to have to try and carry on.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer