Everyone can breath a sigh of relieve. After trouncing Toronto FC and getting some help from (don't we all feel so dirty) D.C. United, the New York Red Bulls have clinched a playoff spot after a season in which a playoff spot was anything but guaranteed. Don't get too cozy, RBNY still has a lot to play for. In the remaining two games, the Red Bulls are going to be aiming for enough points to put them in at least third place in the Eastern Conference, allowing them to avoid the extra play-in game and giving them some extra time off before [hopefully] making a run at the MLS Cup. The first step towards making that run starts this Sunday afternoon in Red Bull Arena, where New York looks to beat the Columbus Crew and secure another three points towards their regular season goal.
Here's what we know:
As we've already stated, this Sunday's match is essentially a six pointer. No, it wouldn't be the end of the world should the Red Bulls fail to win the game, but anything other than a win could possibly spell doom for them later on down the line. A win would bring New York up to 50 points and secure the team home field advantage should they be forced into the fourth and fifth place play-in game to start the playoffs. Read why playing that game at home is so important here
. A win on Sunday would also guarantee at least one more chance to see football legend, Thierry Henry, play at Red Bull Arena.
- Getting closer to full strength.
New York played their last match slightly undermanned. Due to international call ups and suspensions, Mike Petke had to pull some tricks out of his sleeve in order to get a result and it ended up working like gangbusters. The Red Bulls clobbered Toronto and took away a valuable three points. This week, the lineup should look a little more familiar. Starting left back, Roy Miller, is back from from international duty with Costa Rica and Peguy Luyindula, New York's best creative threat in the midfield, returns after serving a one game suspension. The reinforcements come at a perfect time. Columbus is currently a better team than Toronto and the Red Bulls will need all hands on deck in order to get the win.
- Henry enjoys playing against Columbus.
The Columbus Crew must hate playing against Thierry Henry as much as Thierry Henry must love playing the Crew. In seven games, the French wizard has scored six goals while notching five assists, three of which occurred the last time the two teams met. And let's not forget this little beauty
either. Considering this Sunday could possibly be the RBNY captain's final match in Red Bull Arena, it's safe to assume he'll want to put on a show, much to the detriment of Columbus' playoff hopes.
Here's what we don't know:
- Can BWP get closer to the record?
While Bradley Wright-Phillips may have scored in his last match, the hot footed, English striker's streak seems to have slowed down considerably. Only two goals away from the record and three from breaking it all together, can BWP reignite his scoring habit this Sunday? Here's hoping for a hat trick. Breaking the record during the last home game of the season would be a nice capper on the year.
- Will Parkhurst be a problem?
American international, Michael Parkhurst has been quietly enjoying a very solid year as part of the Crew's back line. Moving all over the place, the defender is about as dependable a player as you're likely to find in this league and a far cry from much abused Chad Marshall of years past. If anyone is capable of leading his defense to a shutout, it's Parkhurst.
- Wait a minute...will this be Henry's last stand?!?!
This question cannot be understated. Sunday could mark Thierry Henry's, possibly the greatest DP MLS has ever seen, last home match ever. Is he retiring? Who knows. Is he transferring to PSG? It's anybody's guess. Will he sign on with Red Bull for one more year? One can hope. All of those possibilities are out of the team's control on Sunday...but what they can control, what they can give us, is a win and the promise that we'll all get to see a legend play at home at least one more time.