The New York Red Bulls went into last week's match against the Timbers with a chance to grab a playoff spot before any other team in the league. A Felipe golazo and a Damien Perrinelle header later, they became the first MLS team to clinch a playoff spot with a 2-0 win over the Portland Timbers.
Even though they have their postseason berth secured, Mike Grella thinks there's still work to be done.
"It's such a great group that we have and the team deserves to have higher objectives than just making the playoffs. We're definitely aiming higher and I don't think we've accomplished anything yet."
Jesse Marsch and his side are poised to make a run at the Supporters' Shield. Tied on points with the Vancouver Whitecaps (48 points), the Red Bulls still have a game in hand to overtake the Canadian side and it all starts with Orlando City.
The Red Bulls have some impressive things going their way this week too. Gonzalo Veron and Shaun Wright-Phillips both earned their first starts of the season against the Timbers, meaning that regular starters Grella and Lloyd Sam are both rested and ready to go should Marsch opt for his usual lineup.
In addition to this, captain Dax McCarty will be eligible to play, as will Connor Lade. Both had served suspensions for yellow card accumulation and will most likely start against Orlando, bringing the total of rested starters to 4.
Most impressive of all is the Red Bulls' 6-game winning streak at Red Bull Arena. This bodes well for their Supporters' Shield bid, as they play 4 out of their last 6 matches at home.
While the stars have proverbially aligned for New York, Orlando City is going to need some of that luck to come their way if they are to make the playoffs.
Currently one point behind the Montreal Impact by one point, Orlando also has played three more games so far this season. Coming into Friday's match off of back-to-back wins, Adrian Heath will hope to make it 3 wins in a row.
The return of Brek Shea has considerably boosted the offensive power of Heath's squad, while Bryan Rochez and Adrian Winter combined for four goals in their last two games.
Players to Watch
The match against Portland would have looked completely different if it wasn't for the heroics of Luis Robles. Robles recently broke the club record for total shutouts while putting up an insane double save against the Timbers. He's been an absolute brick wall and the Red Bulls' fortunes will depend greatly on his form. As for Orlando City, Brian Rochez will provide the X-factor. Having scored in the last two games for Orlando, Rochez has been providing the goalscoring solution as of late for a side that's been shutout 10 times over the course of the season.
Both teams still have plenty to play for, so this should be a close fixture. Given the Red Bulls' recent dominance at home and the emotional high they're currently riding, don't be surprised if the Red Bulls pull another home win out of the bag. Score: 3-1, Red Bulls.