Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.
Well, that was fast. Back-to-back losses at Montreal and Houston have dropped the New York Red Bulls from first place in the Eastern Conference and narrowed their lead over rival DC United and the Chicago Fire.
With forty points apiece through twenty-three games played, both Sporting Kansas City and the Houston Dynamo pulled ahead of New York who has been stuck on thirty-eight points since beating the Philadelphia Union on July 21. Both Chicago and DC won over the weekend as well, which only makes the top of the Eastern Conference more crowded, especially considering D.C. United has played two fewer games than the Red Bulls. Houston has played an impressive stretch of games to reach the top of the standings (6-0-2 in their last eight matches). In comparison, New York is 3-3-2.
Of their eleven remaining games in the regular season, the Red Bulls play six against Eastern Conference teams that are within three points of them in the current standings in either direction. While the introduction of an unbalanced schedule came under a lot of scrutiny from fans to open the season, it's hard to argue it won't make for some compelling matchups and storylines down the stretch.
The Red Bulls aren't only looking to reclaim the top of the Eastern Conference for home field advantage purposes in the playoffs, but they are also still in the hunt for the Supporters' Shield, which is awarded to the team with the best record from both conferences. The San Jose Earthquakes currently are atop the overall MLS standings with forty-four points. A six point advantage is far from impossible to overcome with the number of games that remain, however New York will have to continue its superb play at home and improve on the road if they want to capture the Supporters' Shield for the first time in club history and the automatic CONCACAF Champions League bid that comes along with it.