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Red Bulls hope to channel 2018 form down stretch

New York begins its two-match road trip in the Pacific Northwest this Sunday.

MLS: Toronto FC at New York Red Bulls
Cris Armas and company are hoping to right the ship in Seattle and Portland these next five days.
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

While several players spent time with their national teams, a smaller Red Bulls roster put together a productive week of training before a big finish that begins this Sunday in Seattle.

“I think it’s been nice to have this little break, little time for us to recharge, work together on and off the field,” Sean Davis said. “We had a good day away from the field the other day, which was nice, some team building. But we’ve also had time to reflect on past results, what we need to improve on, how to continue to be better on defense and keep shutouts. Also, how we want to approach these last five games.

“I think last year, 2018, we were very strong in the last five games in terms of wins and goals conceded. I think if we can get back to that mentality, it will be very useful for us in this final stretch.”

A five-match stretch with the 15 remaining points in the season starts in the Pacific Northwest, with a two-match, five-day road trip. The Sounders are currently tied with Real Salt Lake on 46 points, but sit in third place with a goal difference of +1, five behind Salt Lake.

“They’ve kind of been like us, they’ve been a little up and down,” Davis said. “I think that they’re coming off of a huge win against [LA] Galaxy. And then, obviously a tough, tough game against Colorado, where they were missing a lot of players. But they’ve been similar to us in that they know they’re a good team. It’s just been a little inconsistent at times. But we know, going there, it’s going to be a really difficult task.”

The Red Bulls’ inconsistency has been a topic all season, and the international break could not have come at a better time, following that horrible two-goal loss to the Colorado Rapids. As the team prepares for the final stretch run, many players are looking back to last season for guidance.

“Yeah, we want to have a good rest of the season,” Dani Royer said. “Obviously, we think back to the end of 2018, we had a really good period down the stretch, where we won almost seven games in a row. We just conceded one goal and that’s what gives us belief.

“And that’s where we were focusing on to, to perform like that. I think last season we were fully committed to every single thing that we do, to all the details, totally committed to our game plans, to our philosophy, and everybody stuck together. That was, I think, definitely a huge part of that team spirit to get that good end of the season in regular season, to get the points that were necessary to get the Supporters’ Shield.”

A player who could play a huge part this weekend, who will certainly be called on, is Josh Sims, who is becoming more and more comfortable by the day. Even though it’s only been two matches, coming off the bench at New York City FC and starting against the Colorado Rapids, Sims doesn’t look out of place.

“For me personally, like fitness, learning the boys and how the team plays, I think this week’s been a really good week for me,” Sims said. “I mean, obviously, the whole season is important.

“Now, the last bit of the season, everyone really needs to knuckle down and really get this playoff position. I come at a difficult period in the season, but it’s good for me because I’m straight into the action.”

These are points the Red Bulls must pick up to climb the East, as difficult as they may be to get. If the players truly want to find the form of last year, they will need to dig deep to finish out the regular season with a flourish.