The New York Red Bulls are going to the playoffs.
That part isn’t too shocking considering the fact that 10 Eastern Conference teams are making some form of postseason appearance this year and two of the 14 teams still haven’t cracked 20 points this late in the season.
What is worth talking about is the Red Bulls’ results coming out of October. Two draws and a win in the final half of the month does not sound terribly great on paper – honestly, it would fit in with the rest of the team’s season up until this point. The thing that matters though is that the results all came due to late-game heroics.
Brian White tripled his season goal total thanks to two stoppage-time equalizers against Orlando City and the Chicago Fire, with the final scores being 1-1 and 2-2 respectively. Aaron Long scored his second goal of the year against the New England Revolution earlier this week to squeak out a 1-0 win, which clinched the team’s playoff spot. These are both two players that haven’t been headline makers this season, despite high billing, finally made the impact. And that’s saying a lot for Long since the USMNT defender should be leading the team’s backline – when at times it feels like players like Amro Tarek are.
Those three actions separated the team from earning the 5 points that it did instead of possibly only earning 1. For context, where RBNY stands now in 7th place with 29 points puts them in the Play-In Round, hosting the 10th seed, with the opportunity to still jump into the First Round proper depending on future results in the final few weeks. If the team had only earned 1 point, factoring in the implications from the other affected teams (ORL, CFC, NER), New York would be at 24 points and would be in 9th place. While that’s still in the Play-In Round sphere, the team would not be locked in and the MLS’s move to use Points-Per-Game (PPG) would mean the team’s lower stat of about 1.19 could be easily jumped.
Factor in that the last two regular-season games come against top table contenders New York City FC and Toronto FC means the Red Bulls would have a tall order to face. To be fair they still do since every game matters for both seeding purposes and overall morale, but there’s a lot less to worry about now that their ticket is already punched.
The bigger question fans should be asking is if the team is ready to do anything in the playoffs.
Of the three teams, RBNY got results from late in October, they all sit at different ends of the spectrum.
Orlando is currently having it’s the best season since joining MLS (including reaching the finals of the MLS is Back Tournament), Chicago may not make the playoffs at all, and New England clinched a berth the day after it lost thanks to MLS announcing PPG being the main factor (though they were going to make it anyway).
Orlando has the second-best offense (goals for) in the East and RBNY held them to a single goal and that was a penalty kick. Chicago has an okay offense and the team allowed two goals and needed a defender to punch in an equalizer.
Brian White, despite those two amazing goals to earn the team ties, has been inconsistent this season upfront for the most part. Suddenly hoping that the New Jersey native can keep up the pace just because he’s scored two critical goals isn’t realistic. He hasn’t been the main man since jumping up from the USL Championship. He’s still top three in scorers for the team this season, sure, but consistent offensive production as a whole has been an issue for the team.
Heading into the final two games, this team will need to see if it can find consistency upfront. Playing from behind or winning late won’t cut it against the best in the Eastern Conference during a single-elimination playoff tournament.
The defense may win championships, but goals scored to avoid elimination.
Featured Image: Getty Images