Late on Saturday night, with three results falling their way, the New York Red Bulls clinched their playoff goal, making Sunday night an opportunity to build on momentum when they host the Philadelphia Union at Red Bull Arena.
The last time these two met down at Talon Energy Stadium, it was a cliché tale of two halves, and one that went against the Red Bulls. New York scored the opening two goals in the first half through Kaku and Brian White, and it looked as though the Red Bulls had control and a smooth three points to take into the Gold Cup break.
But Union head coach Jim Curtin had an ace up his sleeve, pulling out Ilsinho as a substitute to start a comeback 3-2 victory. A big question heading into this particular match for the Red Bulls is, does revenge play a factor?
“Not sure what the players feel, maybe you can convince them that, but this is a home game with one goal in mind, to win the match...prepare for the playoffs, and continue the run,” Armas said.
“It’s pretty straightforward from where I stand and the staff. We are a focused group right now, and we’ve been. Now, we get a nice result, and we want to get two consecutive results our way.”
This is a Red Bulls side that knows it can’t take for granted its recent result. They need to concentrate and stay focused on the bigger picture; feelings from the previous meeting will not be on display on Sunday.
“We remember the first game, but now it’s kind of every game is going to be intense and huge,” Tim Parker said. “Everyone is fighting for final standings and trying to climb the table. For us, it’s trying to get as many points to find a way to get up, and it’s up to them to earn as many points to stay up.
“I think they scored a couple of goals off crosses against us (in the last game). They are good on the ball, they have stolen a little bit of our style in the counter-pressing game, but we are the best at what we do, and we have to trust ourselves.
This is a critical 90 minutes for Chris Armas’ team. While their playoff place is already booked, the Red Bulls will want to prove they can beat a team that may see them again come the postseason.