The New York Red Bulls aren’t just ready for an extremely busy week, they’re right there to grab some nice hardware.
When you think about the 22 year history of the MetroStars/New York Red Bulls franchise, there haven’t been too many weeks with as much at stake like what lies ahead over the next seven days. The Red Bulls have a pair of critical MLS matches as well as this Wednesday night’s U.S. Open Cup final on the road at Sporting Kansas City.
To say it’s a big week would be a big understatement.
“We definitely know that the (U.S.) Open Cup Final is the most important game of the week but we also know that we need the points,” Red Bulls defender Aaron Long told Elite Sports New York during an exclusive phone interview.
The fun starts Sunday afternoon with a home match against the Philadelphia Union at Red Bull Arena. The Red Bulls begin the weekend holding down the sixth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot. But with 41 points, the Red Bulls have their sets set higher as they trail third place Chicago by four points.
Sunday’s match against the Union will be the Red Bulls fourth of the season against their Eastern Conference rivals. The teams have split a pair of regular season matches in Philadelphia while the Red Bulls also beat the Union in U.S. Open Cup play.
“We know them well,” said Long. “They know us well. We are happy that it’s at home. We feel that it’s an advantage every time we get to play at Red Bull Arena. We’re looking for nothing less than three points. That’s first and foremost on all of our minds, especially this month where we have so many away games.”
And the Red Bulls will hit the road next Saturday for a big matchup against the fourth place Columbus Crew, a team they trail by just two points. But after Sunday’s match with Philadelphia, the Red Bulls will turn their attention towards trying to accomplish something that has eluded them since stepping onto the field for the first time in 1996.
They have a chance to win a championship on Wednesday night when they travel to Children’s Mercy Park to face Sporting Kansas City in the U.S. Open Cup Final (ESPN2 8 p.m. ET).
“We know how important playing for a championship is and bringing home a trophy,” said Long, who helped New York Red Bulls II capture the USL title last season. “We want to be the first team that can do this for the club. We want our names etched in history.”
Coming home from Kansas City with a win and a trophy won’t be an easy task for the Red Bulls. KC is unbeaten at home this season including 8-0-5 in MLS play and three more home wins in their run to the championship match. Getting off to a good start is extremely important for the Red Bulls.
“They’re a very good team and they’re very good at home,” said Long. “We know that. Honestly, we just want to fit in and race for the first goal and hopefully get a lead. We don’t want to fall into their tactics. We want to make them adjust to us.”
The Red Bulls have their sights set on ultimately raising MLS Cup so winning their two regular season matches over the next week is critical for them to move up the Eastern Conference table and getting ready for the playoffs. But hardware is hardware and the Red Bulls will spend the middle part of their busy week trying to bring a U.S. Open Cup championship trophy home to an organization and a fan base that has been starving for a winner.
“I don’t think we’re too nervous,” said Long. “We’re just really driven on getting this for the club and for ourselves.”
After a sluggish start to the season, the Red Bulls have played very good soccer over the last few months. This coming week could very well be a defining moment in the history of this franchise. They could win a championship and plant the seeds for another.