There is no pretending that losing the first leg of a two-game series is a good thing. But the New York Red Bulls did lose their opening match of the 2016 MLS Eastern Conference semifinal against Montreal Impact. There isn't anything to be done about that except be thankful Matteo Mancosu's wonder-strike was the only goal of the game.
There are all sorts of ways in which RBNY's situation could be better, but it also could be worse. The task ahead is not insurmountable: win a home game, in a stadium in which L'Impact is yet to record a win since making the move to MLS in 2012. Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch is in no mood for excuses, nor is even willing to concede the one-goal hole his team is in changes anything at all about the plan for the second leg:
"Whatever the game was - up 1-0, or 1-1, down 1-0 - the key for us is always to have a fast start. From the beginning of the game, we have to go for it. We will be smart on how we protect ourselves and limit how they counter on the break," said Marsch. "We did a very good job of it last game. We will employ a similar game plan but make sure that we understand different moments of the game and throw something different at them from a set-piece perspective and a tactical perspective.
Hopefully we will catch them off-guard a bit, but we have so much confidence at home and we are a good team at home. We know we will possess the ball out and we will be dangerous. It's really exciting and everyone is pumped about it. Now we have a playoff game at home and everyone is excited to be home this Sunday."
In training on Friday, two days before their big match, the Red Bulls looked loose and energetic. The players know what they need to do, and are eager to do it. The ideal is clear: take Montreal's advantage away early and tilt the series back toward the home team.
"I think it would be ideal to get an early goal for us, as it would take some of the pressure off our backs. But it would also be important to get a clean sheet. But getting an early goal would change their game plan a lot," said Alex Muyl.
"It would play into our hands to get that early goal to change things up a bit. We can't play with fear if they score tomorrow. If the game goes the way we want it to play, then those guys can't creep in. There is a job to do on their side of the field with Ambroise Oyongo and Ignacio Piatti, so we need to play with confidence going forward."
Aurelien Collin provided a defender's perspective, which is perhaps a little more focused on keeping the opposition shut out and allowing the forwards to do their work without additional pressure: "I think that it's not a bad result - down only one goal and we are home. We are great at home, and of course we have been studying and working on things that we need to be perfect for this weekend," said Collin.
"We need to be patient and very physical with them and we know we will have a lot of opportunity and we just need to score on them and be serious in the back, not allow them to score - and that's it."
Easier said than done, but these Red Bulls have been coming home in need of a win all season. They know themselves, they know the pressure of playing for a win at Red Bull Arena because results on the road weren't great. They have played with the inconvenience of injuries (Kemar Lawrence is questionable for Sunday) and suspensions (Omer Damari is out after drawing a red card in the first leg). Their opponent has the advantage that counts most - a goal - but RBNY has at least got familiarity with these circumstances on its side: playing at home needing a win, as has been the case most of this season.