John Tolkin: :All you have to do is focus on preparing for the game. It’s been beneficial.”  (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis Editor

The Red Bulls will host FC Cincinnati in a first-round MLS Cup Playoff game on Saturday, but off-the-field they are treating it as a road game.

They are staying at a hotel on Friday night.


And for good reason.

They are only 6-6-5 at Red Bull Arena this season, the worst home record of any of the 14 playoff sides. On the other hand, they were a rather impressive 9-5-3 away, the second best among all teams (Montreal was first with 11 road wins).

The Red Bulls tried the hotel way four times in their final regular season matches and secured a 3-1 record.

So, it certainly didn’t hurt.

“It’s not a reason why we should stop it now,” head coach Gerhard Struber said with a smile. “We will have a very professional setup [that has] helped us. I think when we are always close together the mood is good together. The work … we do in the hotel help us also do to find always for the next game, the right commitment. We will do it again and hopefully brings us luck and the commitment [that] will help us for the next step.”

Defender John Tolkin also gave it a thumb’s up. He hails from Chatham, N.J.

“I think it’s good. I live three minutes from the hotel, so it might be a little bit hard for me,” he jokingly said.

Then he got serious.

“I think it’s good for everybody to kind of it’s really just lock in. We’ve started doing that this year. It has helped us a lot when everybody’s together the night before and then the build-up before the game. It really just hones everybody and you’re not at home focusing on other things. All you have to do is focus on preparing for the game. It’s been beneficial.”

The Red Bulls started their hotel stay record with a 3-1 triumph over Inter Miami CF on Aug. 27. After dropping a 2-0 decision to the Philadelphia Union on Sept. 3, they defeated the New England Revolution, 2-1, on Sept. 10, and then Charlotte FC on Decision Day on Oct. 9, 2-0.

“Going into this we took preparations of staying at a hotel before his game, really locking down and everybody focused,” said Caden Clark, after scoring the insurance goal as a second-half substitute in the 74th minute on Aug. 27. “So, you can see a big shift from everybody in the team.”