|photo by Matt Kremkau
by Anthony J. Merced
New York Red Bulls return to MLS play on Sunday against old rivals DC United in a game that could serve the balance of playoff positioning. DC is four points ahead of New York in the standings with the Red Bulls having a game-in-hand. Those four points are the difference between the last playoff spot and being on the outside looking in.
"Both teams are competing for the playoffs and they are ahead of us right now," said head coach Troy Lesesne. "They have a lot of talent and are very well coached. So, I think it is going to be a very fun challenge for our group on the night."
DC has two wins in their last five MLS games and lost in similar fashion to New York, on penalty kicks, to Philadelphia Union, in the Leagues Cup knockout stage. While DC is trying to rebound after years of decline, New York is trying to continue their streak of making the playoffs with this game poised as one of the proving ground matches heading into the final eight games of the campaign.
New York's defense has been their most positive trait this season as they have rarely lost by multiple goals this season. It is their offense that has left points on the field with little looking to change at this point. Still, the team garnered confidence in the Leagues Cup, having not lost a game in regulation in the entire competition.
"It was a good experience for us," said winger Omir Fernandez. "No more excuses, a little bit less talk and more action on the field and I think since he (Troy Lesesne) has been here, I give a lot of credit to him and his staff."