At training on the Friday before their 2016 MLS regular-season finale against Philadelphia Union, the New York Red Bulls were mostly focused on the immediate task: closing out the season with a strong statement about the team's readiness for the playoffs.
But there was also time to look ahead. Way ahead to next year's 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals. RBNY has known it is in the CCL knockout rounds for about a month now, and it had no game to play in the tournament's final set of group stage matches. But those matches would determine who the Red Bulls would be playing when the competition starts up again in February, and Jesse Marsch had an eye on the mid-week CCL fixtures.
"It's been an interesting couple of days the way that some of these games have played out. Pachuca gave up their lead late, and FC Dallas scoring that last- minute goal - that changed the seeding. So I was watching all the games and keeping track," said Marsch.
"In the end I knew that it looked like we were going to slip to the eight seed. And in all reality it's not the worst match-up, as it's an opponent that we know and they will be on a similar cycle that we will be on: getting ready for the season, while others will already be in mid-season."
The Red Bulls will play the top-seeded Vancouver Whitecaps in a home-and-away series expected to start in late February. As the lower seed, RBNY will host the first leg, and then head to Canada for the deciding game. The current priority is the playoffs. Whatever happens in November, the team won't have much time to reflect: CCL will be in the foreground as soon as this MLS season is over.