Thierry Henry has led the New York Red Bulls to fourth in the Eastern Conference (53 points), but sit just four points ahead of sixth-placed Columbus Crew.
With Sporting Kansas City visiting Red Bull Arena tonight, New York will attempt to walk away with a crucial three points from the top team in the conference.
They are three points that could save the club from a collapse of epic proportions.
The Red Bulls found themselves in first place following their 2-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo on Aug. 10, but have been wildly inconsistent since then and are now in danger of missing the playoffs.
They are a pedestrian 3-2-2 in their last seven matches, with two of those victories coming against the lowly Timbers and Toronto FC. They failed to elevate when the level of competition increased and have only managed one point vs. playoff teams in that stretch (a 2-2 draw vs. D.C. United on Aug. 29).
To make matters worse, New York’s potential implosion has been assisted by curious personnel decisions.
With the level of talent they possess and the amount they spent to obtain it, there is still no excuse for the team’s recent downward trend.
The Red Bulls were undefeated at home (10-0-3) when Sporting KC visited back in September, but fell 2-0 and suffered their first home loss of the year. A similar result tonight will be demoralizing and detrimental to New York’s future heading into the final week of season.
A trip to rival Philadelphia awaits the Red Bulls on Oct. 26. Given their horrid performance on the road this year (4-7-5), there is no telling which team will arrive on the pitch.
Thierry Henry has been nothing short of spectacular this year (14 goals with 12 assists) and may have to dig deeper in order to carry his team to the playoffs. Luckily, some help is on the way.
Lloyd Sam was impressive in New York’s 4-1 victory over Toronto FC, but suffered a hamstring injury before the match's conclusion. His anticipated return will provide an added dimension to the Red Bulls’ attack as they attempt to exploit the absence of midfielder Roger Espinoza (ankle sprain).
A draw will help the Red Bulls inch closer to a playoff birth, but there is no denying a victory is necessary for their psyche. One point will fail to ignite a momentous run towards the MLS Cup.
New York must send a message to themselves and the rest of the Eastern Conference, that with the MLS Cup six weeks away, they still belong in the conversation.
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