It’s been a season of ups and downs (mostly downs), but that’s all in the rear view mirror as the MLS Playoffs kick off tonight with the New York Red Bulls taking on FC Dallas in the Wild Card round.
New York seeded 10th to attain the final playoff spot on Thursday when they beat Philadelphia 1-0. FC Dallas finished in the 7th Wild Card seed due to the highly competitive nature of the Western Conference and slumping play in the final two months of the season.
New York has found themselves on the right end of a surge this last month, playing the most competitive and fundamentally sound soccer they have since the beginning of the season where they allotted only 2 goals in their first 4 matches.
Still, New York will find themselves without a key cog in their machine as forward Luke Rodgers will find himself sidelined for the match. This will almost certainly find Dane Richards stepping up to pair with Thierry Henry who will be returning from his one match suspension due to a red card in Kansas City two weeks ago.
Despite slacking play over the last few months of the season, the might of Dallas should not be understated. They also will find themselves well-rested, having let key members of the team, such as Brek Shea, rest in the final match of the season last weekend. As a result, this is a team who will be fielding their top squad and that squad will be well-rested and up to the task.
But being on the bubble of a playoff spot has been a boon for New York this past month. They are no strangers to pressure, playing each match in September as if it were a playoff situation (and, in most cases, it was).
One thing to keep in mind is, despite their poor performance in the league, New York is third in the league for least amount of losses. Most of the disappointment has come in the form of draws, and there were plenty of those to go around this season.
The key tonight will be the performance of the midfield. Against Philadelphia, they played well, finding space and opportunities and dispossessing the Union, maintaining a wonderful pace that kept New York in dominant territory throughout the match. Keeping Dallas on their heels will do wonders for their chances to pull through to the next round.
New York drew and defeated FC Dallas this season, and the victory came on the road and without Thierry Henry. They matched up well against them, and there’s no reason to feel like New York is the underdogs heading into the match.
The match kick off at 9PM ET and will be broadcast nationally on Fox Soccer Channel.