There is no respite for the Red Bulls after a run to the Leagues Cup Round of 16.
Currently sitting slightly below the playoff line, the remainder of the schedule will do New York no favors in their quest to keep their historic streak of making the postseason alive.
Three points at home against D.C. United this past weekend, which came by way of a late John Tolkin free kick goal, will likely prove even more crucial as the regular season inches towards a close.
“We knew that one point would not be beneficial for us on the table, so the three points that we got, we are happy with that,” goalkeeper Carlos Coronel said.
An Atlantic Cup win hopefully helps set the tone for the Red Bulls as they forge forward in regular season play.
“It’s a good start to this last kind of third of the season. We wanted to get a win here, especially at home. The last four or five matches, I think we’re unbeaten at home, and that’s a positive going into this last kind of playoff push,” defender Sean Nealis said.
Including D.C. United, eight of the ten matches remaining are against teams who occupied a playoff spot when the Leagues Cup break began.
One of the two matchups that doesn’t come against a current playoff team might end up being the toughest one remaining as Lionel Messi and Inter Miami CF make their way to Red Bull Arena on August 26.
Despite sitting at the bottom of the MLS league table, Inter Miami is now commanding the attention of MLS clubs on their schedule.
“They’ve been flying this past Leagues Cup, they’ve been killing it. They have a big match on Wednesday with the U.S. Open Cup and we’re going to be ready for them on the weekend,” Nealis said. “That should be a good one. It should be a fun one. Everyone’s excited for that one.”
After taking on Messi and Miami on Saturday, New York will then hit arguably their toughest three-match stretch of the 2023 season: road matches against New England, Philadelphia and derby rivals New York City.
Combined, the Red Bulls have 17 wins against those three teams in 78 road matches across all competitions. In 12 road matches this season, New York has only registered one victory.
The extended road trip for New York is followed by meetings with fellow playoff position fighters Austin FC, D.C. United and Chicago Fire. The final three matches sees a home match against Eastern conference bottom dweller Toronto FC sandwiched in between road trips to Supporters Shield leaders FC Cincinnati and Leagues Cup Finalist Nashville SC.
With a daunting road ahead, the Red Bulls have some recent positive form to look back on and build confidence.
“The confidence that Leagues Cup gave to us was really good,” Coronel said. “The confidence with the group, not just with me, but with the group, is really high,” Coronel said.
New York went undefeated in the Leagues Cup run, making it to the Round of 16 before falling in penalties to Philadelphia. In their run, they registered two clean sheets, only allowed a total of two goals in four matches, and registered wins over rivals NYCFC and New England.
Heading into Saturday’s blockbuster matchup against Miami, while also focused on the remaining road ahead, Head Coach Troy Lesesne is just focused on the fight his team has shown all season long.
“We continue to fight through it,” Head Coach Troy Lesesne said. “The next guy steps up, and we have to have that attitude throughout the rest of the season to believe that we can get the job done with any player on the field,” Lesesne said.