Sean Davis: “It has taken a total group effort to get where we are now and it is important to understand that the job is not done.” (Tom Horak-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
Hey, didn’t we use a headline close to that one prior to the Red Bulls’ home game against Atlanta United Wednesday?
Yes, we did, and the Red Bulls didn’t accomplish what they had set out to do as they wound up with a 1-1 draw.
Now, they have one final opportunity to clinch an MLS Cup Playoff spot – at Nashville SC Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET. If they win or draw, they will reach the postseason for the 12th consecutive time.
Of course, that’s easier said than done. Nashville (12-4-17, 53 points), which is in third place in the Eastern Conference, already has booked a spot in the playoffs and hasn’t lost at home this season. The second-year MLS team is 8-0-8 there this season.
The seventh-place Red Bulls (13-12-8, 47) still can reach the postseason if they get some help from the outside. See this link for the various scenarios:
“It will obviously be a challenge, but I think we are up for it,” Red Bulls defender Andrew Gutman said. “Nashville is a really well organized defensively team. We just need to know that it is going to be a dog fight. They do not give up a lot of goals and we do not give up a lot of goals, so it is going to be a battle for who wants it that little bit more. I have total belief in our team and what we have been doing these last couple months. We just have to show it one more time and go into Nashville getting a result and then we go into playoffs, and anything can happen.”
The Red Bulls do have something going for them against Nashville. They defeated them at the friendly confines of Red Bull Arena, 2-0, on June 18.
“We have to be ready for their best and we have to be ready from the opening whistle,” Red Bulls captain and midfielder Sean Davis said. “That has been the message over the last few weeks. We know how important these games are, especially this one. So, I think the team is ready to go. I think they are excited, and it is a big opportunity for us. It is not going to be easy, but it is a great challenge, and this is why we play the game.”
New York, left for dead by many league observers in their playoff hunt during the summer, is on one of its best late season surges in its 26-year history with a 7-1-3 mark in their last 11 games.
“It has taken a total group effort to get where we are now and it is important to understand that the job is not done,” Davis said. “We have to take care of business on Sunday, but I am really proud of how everyone in this organization has grown throughout the year.
“We have all been challenged in different ways from the staff to the players and I am just really proud to be a part of this group, and this run we have been able to go on. I think it has been a source of pride, for not only us, but also our fans and that is really important for them for sticking with us through thick and thin. We are all really appreciative of that and there were so many different obstacles, different issues that were thrown at us, but just really proud of the staff and players for how we have come together, how in the toughest moments when we had our backs up against the wall that we were able to stick together and get the results.
“So, it has given us a great opportunity on Sunday to get into the playoffs and ultimately, go for MLS Cup, and that is the goal.”