Daniel Royer and his Red Bulls teammates will try to push things in a positive direction as they enter the playoffs. (Noah K. Murray/USA TODAY Sports)
HANOVER, N.J. — In terms of standings and seedings for the upcoming MLS Cup playoffs, the Red Bulls’ match at D.C. United at RFK Stadium means absolutely nothing.
However, for the team’s momentum entering the postseason, it will mean much, much more.
New York is stuck in sixth place in the Eastern Conference entering the 4 p.m. encounter against 11th-place United, which is enduring a miserable season and will finish last.
After last week’s scoreless home tie with Atlanta United, the Red Bulls need a win against their Atlantic Cup rivals. New York can clinch the cup with a draw. They registered a 2-0 win in April and played to a wild 3-3 draw last month.
“We need to continue to have a playoff-type mentality,” head coach Jesse Marsch earlier this week after training at the Red Bulls Training Facility. “I’m really happy with the last two games specifically because I think our urgency and our concentration for what big games are like has been really good and we can have no lapses right now.”
Though United failed to reach the postseason, the Red Bulls expect a fierce battle due to their 22-year rivalry.
“Every game we play them it’s … like a war,” midfielder Alex Muyl said. “We’re expecting a very hard game…if we can get more points and we make it to the MLS Cup, we can host it so it’s not a game that either side is going to take lightly.”
So, the Red Bulls need to concentrate on the matter at hand.
“It has to be sharp from that perspective from a mentality and focus perspective so that’ll be important for us and that’ll help us set the tone for the midweek match,” Marsch said. “I think this team is really committed to do the things we need to do to be successful and I’m excited to put it to the test in the playoffs.”
The Red Bulls play at the third-place team in the Eastern Conference in a knockout round game Wednesday or Thursday. Their opponent will be determined on Decision Day Sunday.
It could be anyone from Hudson River Derby rival New York City FC to the Chicago Fire to Atlanta United or Columbus Crew SC.