Mike Petke’s mantra this season has been simple: One at a time. It’s a philosophy that has allowed the New York Red Bulls to get through tough patches, but also one that has kept them from thinking – or at least talking about – their long-term prospects this season.
As of Saturday night’s 2-2 draw with the New England Revolution, the first item on the Red Bulls’ to-do list has been crossed off: making the 2013 MLS Cup Playoffs.
With that done, and with two games left in the regular season, the Red Bulls are turning their gaze to the next item on the agenda.
“Second goal right now, for sure, is Supporters’ Shield. One hundred percent.” Petke said after Saturday’s draw. “It would have been a lot more realistic [if we had gotten] three points tonight, but if we win the next two games… we’ll be the top team in the East.”
The Red Bulls prospects to take home the Shield brightened considerably throughout the rest of the weekend. Of the teams within three points of New York in the standings, only one – Sporting Kansas City – picked up a win. Second-place Real Salt Lake were held to a draw by FC Dallas. The Portland Timbers had a win snatched away from them by the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Most fortuitously, the Seattle Sounders, who have two games in hand on the Red Bulls, suffered a 5-1 loss on the road to the Colorado Rapids. New York still have plenty to do to finish on top, and picking up wins in Houston on October 20 and at home to Chicago for the season finale is now more or less essential.
“It gives us the best chance to get No. 1 overall in the League,” Petke said of winning out. “Then once the season ends, we go on to our third goal.”
The Red Bulls have this weekend off, giving them an additional week to prepare for their next match. But it also gives them an extra week to savor their accomplishment.
“That was the goal from the beginning of the season, so we’re delighted to reach the first goal,” Lloyd Sam said of making the playoffs. “Now we can kick on with the rest of our goals.”