|Photo by Matt Kremkau
What has happened with the Red Bulls? They looked dead and buried after that poor result at the Arena against the Chicago Fire as they dropped all three points, but now with the last two matches by them, they are in the running on decision day to try and enter the final playoff spot and hopefully bump either Montreal, DC or Both. They went to Cincinnati, Ohio to try and dampen the spirits of all those FC Cincinnati fans after they clinched the supporters Shield.
And they did so from a wonderful hard-fought performance by taking them out by a final of two goals to one. They knew they had to play like their post-season lives were on the line and while Pat Noonan did rest most of his starters, the Red Bulls knew they couldn't take any chances assuming that Cincy was going to lie down and allow them to get free shots. Frankie Amaya who was drafted by the Orange & Blue punished them by converting the opening goal from 20 yards out beating Alec Kann to the back post.
Then Elias Manoel finished a lovely volley as he got a great ball from John Tolkin. All he did was swing and side-footed his shot top shelf for the two goals to nil lead. Even though it should've been four goals to nil, sadly Cameron Harper missed a point-blank chance, and Manoel who had a beauty of a finish was wiped out by VAR due to Andres Reyes being caught handling the ball inside his own penalty area, it was converted by Luciano Acosta, but some excellent defense by the Red Bulls got them to spoil the party and step one was achieved.
Step two was a return to Red Bull Arena for Fan Appreciation Night and even though Toronto FC was a side that had been maligned with injury and continued in-house fighting against then-head coach Bob Bradley and others from within, the Red Bulls knew they had to get the full three points in this one. With former Canadian Men's National Team head coach John Herdman now taking over, those players were fighting to save their places for the club next season. But once again it wasn't enough.
Former US Men's National Team Midfielder Michael Bradley who is now playing as a center-back in a three-man backline just looked all out of sorts and within the final minute of regulation before stoppage time in the first half, he got caught badly. Manoel stripped the New Jersey native and found Tom Barlow all alone and he quickly struck the opening goal putting the Red Bulls into a late lead. Once the second half began, the Red Bulls continued to put their foot on the gas and it was a Brazilian duo that linked up for the second goal.
For much of the season, Luquinhas has had bad luck or injuries to prevent him from breaking out this season. Well, he finally got himself back on the scoresheet since the home match against the Columbus Crew by converting a brace. He was sprung by Manoel attacking the net, and with two defenders on him, he twisted his body to shoot the ball, split between the defenders, and beat the keeper for his first of the match, then his second came with a nice cross by Kyle Duncan and then slotted it home for the third of the match.
The Red Bulls for the first time this season within league action now have a two-match winning streak. They have had a winning streak in all competitions, an unbeaten streak, but not back-to-back wins in league competition till these last two games. They are now on the verge of the possibility of actually making the playoffs and here is the scenario on what needs to happen. Their final match after the international break will be on the road at Nashville SC, who are currently not doing well.
They must win their match to get 43 points and other results to go their way. Currently, Montreal is in 8th place with 41 points, and DC United is in 9th with 40 points, but DC is officially eliminated because they have already played all of their thirty-four matches as we only have twenty-nine teams in MLS currently. If Montreal Draws, or loses their final match, that means the Red Bulls can go over the playoff line with a win. But Charlotte still has a game in hand as they play a rescheduled match against Inter Miami in south Florida, then back to Bank of America Stadium the following Saturday.
Also, Chicago will be at NYCFC, so it's also important for the Red Bulls if Chicago draws or loses to the blue team, but hopefully, they will earn the win at Nashville to not worry about that result. So at the end of the day, the Red Bulls have their playoff destiny within their own hands and we shall see if they will either be back at Red Bull Arena or go on the road in the Wild Card game. But what this means for Troy Lesesne is that he has been working his tail off getting his team to play strong and staying focused on the task at hand. The job isn't done yet.
Now with the international break already upon us, they will have some rest, Carlos Coronel will be on International Duty with Paraguay, and once it's all over, get ready to be back in training to make this impossible moment happen. But this is the biggest 90 minutes of their lives, and they are going to have to try and keep the momentum going while resting for two weeks for one game. Let's see if they can do it.