(NYCFC’s Jack Harrison dribbles in between Dax McCarty and Sal Zizzo of the Red Bulls earlier this season – USA Today Sports)
The Red Bulls and New York City Football Club are in a battle for the top spot in the Eastern conference with just two games remaining in the regular season.
They have gone back and forth in the battle for East supremacy, such as last weekend when an NYCFC win on Friday night on the road against the Houston Dynamo put them in first, and the Red Bulls answered with a win of their own against the Philadelphia Union to reclaim the top spot.
The Red Bulls and NYCFC have each clinched a playoff spot and they have identical 14-9-9 records, 51 points, with the tiebreaker going to the Red Bulls on goal differential, +14 for them to +4 for NYCFC.
Toronto FC has also spent time at the top, and they are currently in third place with 49 points and a record of 13-10-9.
The Red Bulls’ final two games are against the Columbus Crew on Sunday, October 16th and at Philadelphia on Sunday the 23rd.
NYCFC’s final two games are at DC United on Sunday the 16th, and they host the Columbus Crew at Yankee Stadium on Sunday the 23rd.
Toronto is at the Montreal Impact on the 16th and host the Chicago Fire on the 23rd.
Red Bulls Head Coach Jesse Marsch was asked last Saturday night if he recalled during his coaching days or playing days that literally every time there is a playing date, a new team takes the lead in the division or conference, and he said, “It’s hard to recall all the years of different battles. When I was at Chivas, we always had really good battles with Houston. When I was with Chicago, we had battles with Columbus and with Dallas, sometimes with New York. So, you know, I mean, I think when I watched last night’s game, I see a New York team that’s very good and very committed and organized. I like that.
“Obviously, we’re all rooting for Houston to get points so that we can set ourselves up. But I think that team is doing well, and it’s driven us. It has driven us in so many different ways. The bad start, the giving up leads, to being tested by other teams doing well. It has made us hungry, and it has made us drive to do better, to get better, to be the best.
“So that’s where we’re at right now, and we’re going to stay focused on that, and we’re going to stay focused on ourselves. But I think we’re being pushed by a lot of different things right now, and our group is responding.”
Red Bulls captain Dax McCarty said of the playoff race, “Its been a great, very MLS type of season. Teams jockeying for positions, going on big winning streaks and then some losing streaks. We started the season 1-6 and if you would have told us we’d be fighting for first in the East right now, people would have probably called him crazy but this team has a lot of character. We’re a veteran group and we know if you have a slow start you can always get back into it.”
After the win against Houston on Friday, September 30, NYCFC’s David Villa said of the playoff chase, “Our mentality is that playoffs began today, that is why we are so happy. After clinching a playoff berth it is easy for any team to relax, [but] our mentality is that we began to play the playoffs; is not the same to play the playoff being first, second, third, fourth, fifth or sixth in the playoff. Therefore, we are already playing the playoff and trying to have a position that is good for us. So, since today we began to play the playoff and this was a great game for us.”