Result in Red Bulls Final Home Match may Make Playoff Run Possible
New York Red Bulls travel to Chicago in the elimination round on Wednesday.
On “Decision Day” the New York Red Bulls knew they were going to the playoffs, they just didn’t know to where they would be packing their bags.
Firmly entrenched in the sixth and final playoff spot, the Red Bulls knew they would be facing the dreaded one-game elimination match at either Chicago Fire, or upstart expansion squad Atlanta United.
Atlanta United is no ordinary expansion squad. Their home-field advantage is definite as in their first year, they lost only three of 17 home matches while winning 11 and drawing just three.
In its last home game of the season, Atlanta showed its high level of play drawing Red Bull 0-0. The result put Atlanta on 54 points and in position to grab third place and a date with the Red Bulls in the playoffs opening round.
However, Atlanta was unable to get more than a draw from its last match of the season and on tie-breakers, Chicago took third place in the East.
This means New York will head to Chicago for the elimination game this week.
Despite Chicago’s impressive home record (actually overall better than Atlanta) there are several reasons a trip to Chicago is better than going to Atlanta.
First, the atmosphere in Atlanta which Red Bull head coach Jesse Marsch called “awesome” after Red Bull won their 2-1 in March, is intimidating to any squad and in the playoffs, it would certainly be at another level.
Despite Chicago Fire’s similar home record, it is worth noting that Atlanta lost two of its first three home matches and has lost just once at home since March.
Chicago did not lose at home until August when the Fire dropped back-to-back home matches.
The Fire are also a veteran laden club that features players like Bastian Schweinsteiger and former Red Bull Dax McCarty and it is possible the long season may be taking its toll on Chicago as the Fire have gone just 2-2-1 in its last five.
There is also uncertainty surrounding Schweinsteiger as he admits “no clubs want him” as his MLS contract nears its end.
So, for Red Bulls, the chances at a MLS Cup Playoff run are slim, but a trip to Chicago is a slightly better opportunity than Atlanta.