The New York Red Bulls hold their destiny in their own hands. For the first time in the club's existence, they are leading the race for the Supporter's Shield with only two weeks left in the regular season. They have a play-off birth locked up and, with a little help from the Montreal Impact's continued self destruction, have avoided the first round play-in match. Everything seems to be going their way and it's downright terrifying. This Sunday, New York returns to Houston to face the Dynamo after beating them in BBVA Compass Stadium last month.
Here's what we know:
- This isn't the same Houston Dynamo
Last month, the Red Bulls walked out of Houston after enjoying a 4-1 win. This time, things probably won't be so easy. While both sides were missing key players during the last meeting, Houston is closer to full strength this time around. It doesn't help that Brad Davis will be inserted back into the lineup coming off of what is probably his best performance while wearing a kit for the United States National Team either. With 48 points, a loss could potentially drop the Dynamo outside of the play-off race barring a few other results around the league, so you can be sure that they'll be up for Sunday's match. All that compounded with the fact that this time of year could affectionately be called "Dom Kinnear Time" makes for a tough game.
- New York is feeling pretty strong too!
Houston isn't the only team on the mend. The Red Bulls are nearing full strength as well. Earlier this week it was reported that Bradley Wright-Phillips is back in full training and will available for selection for this weekend's game along with Connor Lade. While Lade might not make a big impact (or even play at all), the return of Wright-Phillips is huge. He'll most likely be used as a late game sub, but there's no denying the added boost that he brings to this club's attack.
Here's what we don't know:
- How will the two week break affect New York?
A break between fixtures can be a blessing or a curse. Which way is it going to go for the Red Bulls? For younger players, a two week vacation could be just what they need to give their fatigued bodies a chance to recover. Unfortunately for the older guys (read: Thierry Henry) it could just be a chance for their tired legs to seize up on them. Petke has already reportedly taken the French striker out of full team training due to "heavy legs."
Moving past the physical toll of the break, what about the emotional impact? This team knows exactly how important winning the Shield would be to it's supporters. The pressure to win, paired with two weeks to turn it over and over in their minds could go a long way towards psyching the Red Bulls out, or inspiring them to play even harder. For the good folks in the South Ward's sake, let's hope it's the latter.
Here's what we think we know:
The days leading up to Sunday's match are going to be the longest days of our lives...until we win and have to wait another week to play Chicago at home for the chance to win the shield in front of the best supporters in the league. Anyone else feel like throwing up?