The last time we looked at the MLS Power Rankings mid-season, the New York Red Bulls were on a wild ride. The preseason rankings had them at #11, they had a stretch of four weeks out of five at the #1 spot, they tanked to #17 over a six-week timeframe, then somewhat recovered to land at #10. Since Week 17, it's been a steady climb back into the #1 spot, which they have now held for four straight weeks.
It is impressive that through all of the offseason changes, RBNY are in contention for the Shield. They have played 28 games and have 48 points. That puts them in a tie with Vancouver for the top spot, but have a game in hand. And after their 2-0 victory at Portland, they were the first team to clinch a playoff spot this season. They also clinched a better record than NYCFC (go vote!).
At Week 17, RBNY had 1.44 points per game. They have ramped that up to a league-best 1.71 ppg, just eking out FC Dallas (1.68) and Vancouver (1.66). All of these metrics are very tight, but what could set them apart is Strength of Schedule. The Red Bulls have the 3rd easiest schedule remaining, with opponents averaging 1.22 ppg. Vancouver (7th, 1.32 ppg) and Dallas (16th, 1.55 ppg) have tough roads ahead. The Shield result will most likely come down to the last week of the season, ending with the Chicago Fire, just like they did when they won the Shield in 2013.
There will be some very happy fans if the team were to secure their second Supporter's Shield in three years. So much for no hardware in the trophy case. #1 is probably a good position for RBNY in the Power Rankings this week.