Minutes after sealing the top spot in the Eastern Conference, Jesse Marsch set his sights on the next prize: The Supporters’ Shield.
“We’re going for it,” the Red Bulls’ coach said in his postgame interview with MSG’s Tina Cervasio after his team’s resounding 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Union Sunday.
The Red Bulls have destiny in their hands this week, as they wrap up the regular season with a chance to clinch their second Supporters’ Shield title in the last three years. A victory against the Chicago Fire this Sunday would assure New York the Shield and give it home-field advantage throughout the MLS Playoffs.
Should the Red Bulls fail to get three points in the Windy City, their attention will turn to the FC Dallas-San Jose Earthquakes match. Despite being tied on points with 57 each, the Red Bulls hold the tiebreaker over Dallas due to a superior goal differential (18 to 12). Realistically, the only way FC Dallas could surpass the Red Bulls is if Dallas has a better result this week than the Red Bulls have since it’s highly unlikely Dallas will beat San Jose by seven or more goals.
Marsch isn’t taking anything for granted. He wants to make sure the Red Bulls clinch on their terms, with a win at Toyota Park.
“We’re not going to play for a tie,” he said. “We’re going after the game like we always do. I think our team will be prepared and be ready. This team, we’ve had so many big games this year. With all the different games and rivalries and series and whatnot, this team is battle tested. It will not be easy in Chicago, this club has never won there as the Red Bulls. So that’s going to be a tough place to get a result, but we’re going to give everything we have.”
A LOOK AHEAD: RED BULLS VS. FIRE SUNDAY
|17-10-6 (57 Points)||Record||8-19-6 (31 Points)|
|5-7-4 (Road)||Home/Road Record||8-7-1 (Home)|
|1.82||Goals Per Game||1.27|
|1.27||Goals Allowed Per Game||1.70|
|Bradley Wright-Phillips (16)||Top Goal Scorer||David Accam (10)|
|Sacha Kljestan (13)||Assists||Harry Shipp (8)|
Everything on paper points to a Red Bulls victory Sunday in Chicago (Live coverage gets under way at 6:30 PM on MSG+).
The best team in the league heads to the worst team in the East with everything to play for. The Fire are fresh off a 4-0 drubbing in Washington.
There is reason for Red Bulls fans to fear an upset, however, particularly when you look at the history of this series. This franchise has never came away from Toyota Park with three points and the Red Bulls have struggled against one of the lower lights in MLS this season.
New York went down, 3-2, in Chicago on Aug. 26 and had to rally from a two-goal deficit to seal a hard-fought win on Sept. 11 at Red Bull Arena.
The Fire’s ability to get around the Red Bulls’ vaunted press has proven to be a problem in recent encounters and there’s no reason to believe Chicago won’t deviate from that plan again. Nevertheless, the Red Bulls have been put through the ringer time and time again. Big matches won’t scare this group, as they look to seize the moment and cap off an unbelieveably impressive season.
“It is important that we stay hungry, that we have an instinctual desire to go forward, get goals, defend, and nonetheless, not only win the shield, but advance towards the cup,” Red Bulls goalie Luis Robles said to the media after the win over Philadelphia.
“I think the word I like to use is resolve. There’s been several times this season where we may have not played well…but you look at the resolve of this team, the mental fortitude, and we know that when our quality comes out and we have that mental toughness, we’re going to be very difficult [to beat].”