This is it for the New York Red Bulls. The final match of the 2018 regular season is about to be played on Sunday during Decision Day, when the majority of the clubs in MLS will all play at the same time. But while they will have one eye on the Atlanta United road match the other eye will be on their opponents in Orlando City.
Orlando City has had a horrible season this year, as nothing has gone right for them. Even when they fired Jason Kreis for Louisville City manager James O’Connor in midseason their fortunes haven’t changed at all. The Lions are currently dead last in the East.
But that doesn’t mean this Orlando side is not dangerous at all. Orlando City midfielder Sacha Kljestan has stated how he wants to prevent his former team from winning their third Shield.
“It’s a game that means a lot for Sacha and we know how much he’s given to our club and what he has accomplished here,” said Sean Davis. “An influence he’s had on a lot of guys here including me and we know he will be up to the challenge.
“He’s a competitive player by nature he knows the system very well and he is helping them out to understand what we do really well.”
Once again Dom Dwyer is the man with the plan, as he is the club’s leading goal scorer with 13 goals. The hard fought, score-at-all-costs Englishman always has his nose towards the net and finds ways to convert any chance he gets.
“Dom Dwyer is a force, he’s dangerous at all moments, he can run well in the box, he can challenge backlines with runs behind, he doesn’t need a lot of challenges for goals,” said Chris Armas. “We don’t forget those opponents who has confidence against us.
“They always played well against us, they played well in our building against us, so we have a lot of respect for those guys and when you beat a team like they beat us they have confidence that they can do it again.”
Yoshimar Yotun and Kljestan are both midfielders who are very savvy when they have the ball at their feet, as well as when they are serving balls on free kicks. This combo could give fits to the backline, especially when the Red Bulls need to defend set pieces.
“The stats say that they created a good amount of chances during the entire season, way more than what you have seen on the table,” said Daniel Royer. “They still have a lot of creative players with Sacha, Yotun and Josue Coleman. We also know that they don’t have the best defense, so we really need to get on them.”
Since O’Connor took over the technical area for Orlando City, his goalkeeping situation has changed up as well. Joe Bendik, who was the starter for Orlando, has been taken off the goal line for Adam Grinwis. O’Connor likes his keepers to play the ball with their feet, as I was informed by The Mane Land’s Michael Citro.
“Well first of all it shows that there are jobs on the line at this point in the season,” said Sean Davis. “It shows that every player for them is going to show up and try to end their season on a high and that is something we need to be aware of.
“In saying that, if the goalie likes to play on the ground that’s something we might see them do and if they play it long, we need to be aware of everything that is going to happen in this game and when we go into the playoffs.”
During the week, the Red Bulls traveled to Upstate New York and trained at the US Military Academy in Malek Field at West Point, N.Y. It was a beautiful fall day as the boys took the time to get their training regiment down, and a change of scenery is always pleasant to be around.
“When you get the guys together outside of here… Even on road trips, it’s a nice feel that you get, even when you go sometimes two days earlier to a city, there’s certain spirit in the group and the togetherness – you can see that,” said Chris Armas. “It’s a good thing, so knowing we were going to take the group away for a night outside of here, have a training outside of here, we knew that minimally the spirit would be high. So that was minimally what we wanted.
“And then, we’re at West Point. Where it’s so impressive, the people are so impressive, there’s no better examples of leadership and accountability and the whole campus is just impressive. In the end, it’s not a magic pillar, something you take when you go there. Maybe it hits a nerve in different ways and maybe it makes a difference, who knows.”
So, the Red Bulls are getting ready to call an end to the regular season, and the hope will be to finish strong. But if Atlanta United can trip themselves up in Toronto, the Red Bulls can grab their third shield in six seasons.