After shutting the doors on legendary RFK, the New York Red Bulls look to douse the Chicago Fire in the 2017 MLS playoffs.
In the standings, the game meant nothing.
The New York Red Bulls were locked into the sixth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and D.C. United was finishing up a non-playoff season having already wrapped up last place in the East. But for the Red Bulls, Sunday’s 2-1 victory over their rivals carried some special meaning in that they tuned up for the playoffs with a win and they captured the Atlantic Cup, the trophy that goes to either RBNY or DC United for winning the regular season series.
“It was a really great performance,” Red Bulls midfielder Sean Davis told Elite Sports NY in an exclusive phone interview. “(Head Coach) Jesse (Marsch) challenged the group throughout the week to be up for the challenge. Even though we rotated the lineup, the guys came with the right mentality.”
And as the Red Bulls gear up for Wednesday’s knockout round playoff game against the Chicago Fire (830pm FS1), the guys have the momentum of finishing the season strong and winning the last soccer match ever at RFK Stadium. Aside from the Washington Redskins playing there, RFK was a historic soccer venue and now the Red Bulls are the answer to a trivia question.
Who won the last soccer match at RFK stadium?
“It’s a great feeling,” said Davis. “We’re rivals and you live for competitive games like those. It’s really special for the group. I’m really happy that we were able to get that last win ever at RFK.”
For the record, Red Bulls midfielder/forward Gonzalo Veron scored the final goal at RFK but the team is hoping that Veron, Bradley Wright-Philips Danny Royer and the rest of the guys can find the back of the net a few times on Wednesday night at Toyota Park. With a win, the Red Bulls can advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals against Toronto but it won’t be easy and history is not on RBNY’s side.
The Fire leads the all-time series against the Red Bulls 26-17-12 and RBNY is just 4-15-9 against Chicago on the road. The Fire also beat the Red Bulls two matches to one in the 2000 MLS Cup Playoffs. The Red Bulls are in the playoffs for the 8th straight year, the longest current streak in Major League Soccer. Chicago is in the postseason after four straight years of not making the playoffs but they present a tough challenge to RBNY.
— New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) October 22, 2017
“This is the playoffs now and every game is going to be extremely difficult,” said Davis. “They’re a very strong team so we know that we’re going to have to be on top of our game and give absolutely everything.”
After meandering their way through the regular season with plenty of ups and downs, the Red Bulls are ready to make a run at MLS Cup. They closed the season with two wins, two losses and six draws in their final ten games. With new faces, young players, and a host of injuries, the Red Bulls still managed to pull themselves together and make the playoffs. But they’re not happy with just being here. They have a bigger goal in mind.
“We’re in a good way,” said Davis. “We have that momentum but at the end of the day, we need to show up. It’s going to be a battle. I think the group is really confident right now. We’ve been through so much this season and we’ve grown a lot. I feel like we’re hitting our stride at the right time.”
Everybody is 0-0 when the playoffs start. The Red Bulls worked hard to get to this point and they have an opportunity to erase all of their struggles and make a run in the MLS Cup Playoffs. The road to their ultimate goal begins Wednesday in Chicago.