Rafa Márquez's return to the midfield helped stabilize the Red Bulls this past weekend.
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Monday NY Gaffer: Playoffs?

HARRISON, N.J. – Following Saturday's defeat of Colorado, Dane Richards was asked about his recent run of good form. Richards, who scored New York's third goal in a 3-1 victory, smiled and said that when he is in Jamaica, he “drinks confidence.”

Apparently the midfielder has bottled some of that confidence and brought it back to New York with him. 


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Four other things to take from Saturday’s game:

1. Rating Rafa

The biggest difference between last Saturday’s 1-0 loss at Real Salt Lake and this weekend’s strong performance was having the Mexican captain in the Red Bulls midfield. Rafa Márquez calms and settles the midfield—even his simple passes create space for others to operate.

“His vision and the way he controls the ball—it’s very important the way he calms everybody down,” forward Thierry Henry said. “When he’s around, it’s easier for us to come up from the back.”

Henry’s signing in mid-July made the Red Bulls a dangerous team, but Márquez’s signing has made them a complete team—perhaps for the first time in 15 years.

2. Richards is on a roll

It has now been a solid six-game run for Richards, who has been perhaps the best winger in MLS during that stretch. Richards has gone from a speedy enigma who often left you scratching your head with a poor decision to a speedy enigma who leaves you breathless with his threatening moves and clever decision-making.

WATCH: Richards makes it three

“I think at some point it’s about understanding how to use his strengths all the time now, because he’s a player who has to always think to run in behind,” head coach Hans Backe said. “I think in earlier months, he was coming short too much, and he’s not the type of player who can turn with the ball and go inside. He just has to check out and then run in behind as much as possible.”

3. The gel factor

For weeks, Backe has downplayed talk of this being a MLS Cup caliber team, saying that the goal was to reach the playoffs “and then anything can happen.”

Well, the Red Bulls essentially booked a playoff spot with the win on Saturday afternoon, and all the new signings and the old faces are coming together into a cohesive unit.

[inline_node:317488]“I think you can see the more we play, the more comfortable we are,” captain Juan Pablo Angel said. “We are beginning to understand each other as well. We’re creating chances and we’re solid.”

The Red Bulls are coming into form at just the right time as they push down the stretch. Another month together and barring any injuries, this team should be ready for the postseason.

4. The celebration

The team wore black armbands on Saturday afternoon after the passing of teammate Carl Robinson’s father earlier in the week. Then, following his second league goal to stake New York to a 1-0 lead, Henry gently pushed back teammates to pay tribute to Robinson’s loss.

Taking off his armband, he placed it on the ground and gestured towards heaven as the team looked on respectfully. It was a terrific moment from Henry, who all along said that he wanted to be just another one of the players. 

WATCH: Henry scores, mutes celebration

Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012