The New York Red Bulls and manager Chris Armas will certainly be feeling confident after this past weekend. Following a 2-1 victory over Los Angeles Football Club, the win vaulted the team to second place in the Eastern Conference. They sit behind Atlanta United FC by only four points with two games in-hand.
Upcoming stretch will be critical for the New York Red Bulls
The Red Bulls have a 4-2-0 record under their new head coach, and are now entering the most difficult period of their season. Saturday’s game at the Chicago Fire will be the first of three consecutive away matches for the Red Bulls. There will also be multiple short rest weeks on the horizon.
The club visits the Vancouver Whitecaps on August 18th. Four days later, a trip to Yankee Stadium to face New York City FC. While the Red Bulls will return home, there will be no rest for the weary thanks to their schedule. Two home matches against D.C. United (8/26) and the Houston Dynamo (8/29) will test the squad’s depth. Then, an encounter at the Montreal Impact on September 1st bringing the gauntlet to a close. Ultimately, Armas must have his players ready for six games in less than four weeks.
In the race to the Supporters’ Shield, and a top seed in the MLS Cup Playoffs, the next few weeks will have a massive influence. Rotation will be a key priority for Armas. Choosing his line-ups carefully and monitoring player fitness extremely closely is a priority.
The concern for Metro fans will be found in Armas’ tactics, which have been a cause of concern for more than a few since taking over for Jesse Marsch in July. A change in formation that directly led to a loss versus Columbus Crew SC. Placing some players out of their best or natural positions and questionable substitutes have been equally concerning. However, their win against LAFC should offer some positive hope to the skeptical.
This past Sunday featured a performance that was true to the recent Red Bull philosophy, both in formation and style. The high-press system that the squad have made their trademark identity was back. It caused problems for the visitors right from the opening kick. While it took some time to finally strike, the approach put the team in a position to secure three points.
This will be an important element to success during this tough stretch of matches and travel. The upcoming three away games will likely produce at least one loss. Focusing on finding as many points as possible is extremely important. Due to the calendar changes of the CONCACAF Champions League and Toronto FC’s MLS Cup victory, a spot in that competition will go to the American MLS side with the best aggregate record for the 2017 and 2018 regular seasons. Atlanta and NYCFC are currently ahead of the Red Bulls for that mark.
Chicago have struggled this year, sitting tenth in the Eastern Conference and six points back of the final playoff spot. They will also have an issue of fatigue, as they will be traveling to Philadelphia to face the Union in the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday evening. Vancouver and manager Carl Robinson are fighting to close the gap on the Western Conference’s sixth spot, and will look for Kei Kamara and young phenom Alphonso Davies to power them into the postseason.
NYCFC and the Red Bulls meet for the fourth time in 2018, and the young rivalry has seen the home side enjoy an advantage recently.
The Red Bulls and Chris Armas are on a mission for the MLS Cup this season, with the Supporters’ Shield and Champions League qualification important achievements as well. There will be many factors involved, and the next three matches will be vital to the final outcome.