Bradley Wright-Phillips
ESNY Graphic

Sitting just two spots above the playoff line, the New York Red Bulls will have to finish strong to avoid falling out of a playoff spot.

Onz Chery

Last time the New York Red Bulls missed the playoffs, Mike Petke was their head coach. Check that, the last time the Red Bulls missed the playoffs, Petke wasn’t even their head coach, he was playing for them!

New York hasn’t missed the playoffs since 2009.

Well, this season there’s a sad feeling in the air that—it’s tough to say—that the New York Red Bulls will miss the playoffs.

RBNY sits in the second to last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, sixth place. They hold a four-point lead over the eighth-place Montreal impact with just four matches left during the regular season.

It’s been a miserable season. In fact, the club is on a brutal three-match losing streak. Some fans are losing faith in the team and expect this slide to get worse before it gets better. As a result, many Red Bulls supporters expect the team to drop out of the playoff hunt.

But will the season really go this bad? Let’s see.

We’ll start with the good news. New York has a game in hand over the three teams fighting to jump up to a playoff spot: Montreal Impact, Chicago Fire, and Orlando City SC.

Now let’s take a look at The Metros’ last four opponents of the season. Chris Armas’ men will first take on the Portland Timbers away from home on Wednesday.

The Timbers are also fighting to stay in a playoff spot in the Western Conference, sitting in seventh place with a 13W-12L-4T record.

Portland lost their last match to D.C. United, 1-0. But prior to that, they beat Sporting Kansas City, 2-1, and Real Salt Lake, 1-0, a playoff team.

The Timbers are an opponent to fear but after losing three straight games, New York is expected to come out with something to prove.

The Red Bulls haven’t lost four consecutive matches since 2016 and that should not change on Wednesday. Keep in mind, last time The Metros played Portland, they beat them 4-0.

After squaring up with Portland, RBNY will welcome the Philadelphia Union at home on Sunday. The Union are the second-best team in the East and they just drew with the title favorites Los Angeles F.C. on Saturday, 1-1.

Unfortunately, New York could lose this game, especially after playing a midweek match away from home. However, if New York tallies at least three points in their first two outings, they’ll be in decent shape.

Their following match is against their rivals D.C. United at home. The Atlantic Cup will be on the line, of course. New York won the first encounter, 2-1. But they might not be able to do so again.

Here’s why: It’s the second to last game of the season and the team is trying to make the playoffs in the midst of a rough season. This is a situation that a handful of the players experienced in 2017.

Therefore, it won’t be all-new for the players, but they’ve been inconsistent all season and haven’t shown up in the big moment yet. What are the odds of them doing so in a crucial game? Very low.

A draw against D.C. wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. New York would only gain one point after the match but they would win the Atlantic Cup and take one more tiny step toward a playoff berth.

That’s four points for New York in three games during a perilous time, sounds like the typical New York we’ve seen this season, doesn’t it? Disappointing, but enough to still give hope. There’s also one more big game on the schedule, but we’ll circle back to that later.

Other NYC Teams

Meanwhile, let’s take a look at how the other teams fighting to make the playoffs are doing.

The New England Revolution’s last four matches are all against playoff teams. Two of these teams are two powerhouses in the East: first-place New York City F.C. and third-place Atlanta United F.C.

The two other teams the Revs will face are mid-table side Portland and Real Salt Lake, who’s fourth in the West now. Picking up six points out these four matches sounds quite believable for New England.

Legendary coach Bruce Arena could lead the Revs to a playoff position in sixth place with 46 points.

As for Chicago, their last three encounters of the regular season are against F.C. Cincinnati, the last-place team in the East, Toronto F.C., fourth in the East, and Orlando City, the current 10-seed.

It’s safe to say that, Chicago could beat FCC and Orlando but lose to Toronto to finish the season with 43 points. Hence, Chicago would miss out on the playoffs by a slim margin.

We left Montreal for last because they will square off against the Red Bulls in their final game of the season. Montreal’s next two games are against the L.A. Galaxy, who currently sit fifth in the West, and against Atlanta.

The Impact could draw with L.A. and it’s fair to say that they might lose to Atlanta. The match will come three days after they play Toronto in the Canadian Championship final.

In that scenario, Montreal would have 38 points entering their regular-season finale against the Red Bulls. It would be impossible for the Impact to leapfrog New York unless the Red Bulls lose their next three games.

However, the game against Montreal will hold significance for the Red Bulls no matter what. In terms of seeding, the Red Bulls would love to finish sixth or above and avoid seeing the Philadelphia Union in the first round.

With how the season has been going, it wouldn’t be a surprise for New York to just do enough to make the playoffs and lose this final game that will hold seeding implications. In fact, they lost to the Impact, 2-1, earlier this season. This would be the hypothetical table in this scenario.

Playoffs fight prediction

Pos. Teams Points
6 New England Revolution 46
7 New York Red Bulls 45
8 Chicago Fire 43
9 Montreal Impact 41

 

New York could make the postseason as the last playoff seed. And guess who their opponents would most likely be? Either the Philadelphia Union or the Atlanta United—the team’s new bloody rivals after knocking the Red Bulls out of the playoffs last season.

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