The month of August started off just as the New York Red Bulls would’ve liked it, thanks to a 3-2 road win over Sporting KC to claim a temporary hold on first place in the Eastern Conference.
But an unfortunate string of injuries, combined with two consecutive scoreless efforts and a road loss to Chivas USA, has the Red Bulls anxious to set things straight and close out the month on a high note Saturday when long-time rival D.C. United comes to town.
Despite the struggles in the middle of the month, the Red Bulls still find themselves in second place in the East off a 39-point, 11-9-6 record. A win at home Saturday, combined with a Montreal loss or draw, could see the Red Bulls reclaim first place and head into the month of Sept. the same way they kicked off the month of August.
First things first though – get the result at home.
“It seems every week the three points are massive,” said Red Bulls midfielder Tim Cahill. “It’s amazing in this league that three points can take you to the top of the table, or can take you fifth or sixth outside the playoffs. Every week it’s been that way for the last four months, which is crazy. This is why you play football.”
It also doesn’t hurt that New York is taking on a rival; especially a rival they’ve played well against so far this season. In the two previous matches – the Red Bull Arena home opener on Mar. 16, and the trip to RFK on Apr. 13 – New York’s back line has done an effective job of shutting down D.C.’s attack, keeping the club off the board in a 0-0 draw and 2-0 win, respectively. That 1-0-1 record has the Red Bulls primed to reclaim the Atlantic Cup this weekend.
“Couldn’t ask for a better game against your biggest rival, at home, in front of your own fans,” Red Bulls midfielder Dax McCarty said following Thursday’s training session. “It’s a big game for us, a big bounce-back game, but also a big game in terms of the playoffs and making sure we’re not kind of losing the pack.”
That same back line that was so efficient in previous matches against D.C. may have a slightly different look come Saturday. Defender Roy Miller has already been ruled out with an ankle/Achilles issue, and fellow defender Jamison Olave remains questionable for the match. There’s no shortage of options for head coach Mike Petke to work with, but whatever decisions are made will likely be determined on game day.
D.C. enters Saturday’s match fresh off a draw against Toronto FC. Earlier in the month, the club picked up its third of three wins when they knocked off current Eastern Conference-leading side Montreal 3-1 at home. Although it may have only been the club’s first win this month, it doesn’t hide the fact that the old MLS mantra that suggests “any team can win on any day” holds true. This weekend, the Red Bulls are hoping to be that team, as three big points in the East are on the line before heading back on the road to face Houston on Sunday, Sept. 8.
The Red Bulls and D.C. United kick off Saturday at 8:00 PM on NBC Sports. Catch the action live by getting your tickets at Red Bulls Ticket Central, or call 877.RB.SOCCER.