The 2009 New York Red Bulls season, and the team's 14-year stay at Giants Stadium, will end just after 9:30pm ET tomorrow night. It's fitting that tomorrow's match, versus playoff hopeful Toronto FC, will be played on a wet, slick, artificial surface covered with football lines.
While Giants Stadium has hosted plenty of meaningfulsoccermatches in its day, the third-class treatment that the NJ Stadium and Entertainment Authority has shown the MetroStars/Red Bulls since 1996 will be encapsulated in Saturday's 90 minutes. Parking customers will be gouged. Only a handful of concession stands will be open. Security will be surly.
The fans in attendance will hope that the Red Bulls that take the field will show some pride & fight in a season that got away early. New York started the 2009 campaign 0-1-1 in March, and 1-3-1 in both April & May. That pretty much was it. The '08 MLS Cup Finalist has been in 15th (last) position on the league table since June 20th, and is winless in five (0-3-2) since interim coach Richie Williams guided the club to two successive wins in late August.
While tomorrow is meaningless for New York, the match means everything to Toronto, which is trying to reach the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time in the team's three-year history. TFC has twovictories over the Red Bulls this season, both at BMO Field, bizarrely played only nine days apart in June.
The fantastic TFC supporters travel well, and last season brought a large banner announcing "Ooh! The Red Bulls are Shite!" for the Giants Stadium fandom to cast their eyes on. Given the state of the 09 team, the Red Patch Boys' statement was prophetic.
So is it within the realm of reason to expect Red Bull to play spoiler tomorrow? Certainly an appearance by all-time leading scorer Juan Pablo Angel would be an advantage, considering F John Wolyniec is out with season-ending surgery. Hopefully, Toronto will have a case of the giggities and allow a relaxed New York side that's had 10 days off to finish off the season on a positive note.
Is it March 27th yet?
Below is a video from Red Bulls Reader from team practice. At least they're saying the right things...
There are only twenty days remaining in the 2009 MLS Regular Season, and after this weekend's results, there are only five playoff spots up for grabs. MLS Cup and Supporters' Shield holder Columbus have locked up a return trip to post-season, as has '06 & 07 Cup champ Houston Dynamo and the resurgent Los Angeles Galaxy, returning to the playoffs for the first time in four years.
Eleven tightly-packed clubs are in the running for the five available slots, and the higher up the table, the tighter it gets. Clubs in slots 4-9 (Seattle, Chicago, Chivas, Colorado, New England, And DC United) are separated by a mere six points. Clubs currently on the outside looking in, however (Toronto, Salt Lake, Dallas, and KC), all have three matches remaining to reach the top eight. Only one club, New York, has been eliminated.
A close look at the schedule exposes the sides with the easiest road to the playoffs...
Of course, in MLS, a strong stretch run can turn a poor regular season into a playoff success. Here's a look how many points each club has picked in since August 1st:
16 points: x-Columbus (5-2-1), x-Los Angeles (5-3-1), Dallas (5-3-1) 15 points: New England (4-4-3) 14 points: San Jose (4-2-2), Chivas USA (4-3-2) 13 points: Colorado (3-3-4) 12 points: x-Houston (3-3-3), Salt Lake (3-3-3), Seattle (3-4-3), Chicago (3-4-3) 11 points: Kansas City (3-5-2) 9 points: Toronto (2-4-3) 8 points: New York (2-3-2) DC United (2-5-2)
Based on the above analysis, Who will grab five those remaining spots? My prediction: Seattle, Chivas, Salt Lake, New England, and Colorado.
Key Remaining Matches: Sat 10/17: NE-CHI, RSL-TFC, COL-FCD Sat 10/24: KC-DC, CMB-NE, RSL-COL
I'm a media industry veteran and soccer fanatic since the days of the NASL. I've lived in and around New York City most of my life, and support the New York Red Bulls and the US Men's National Team.
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