August is a month of separation in MLS and a time when teams begin to distance themselves in the race for the postseason.
At 2.04 points per game, the Red Bulls have the best points per game tally in the league and have a game in hand over the top overall team in the league. If they want to overtake Atlanta United, the Red Bulls will need to make easy work of the teams below them in the standings and consolidate available points.
The Red Bulls are slated to play five games in the next two weeks and they won’t be easy. Two of the matches are against current playoff teams and two more, including Saturday’s fixture at the Vancouver Whitecaps and next weekend against D.C. United, are against sides climbing in the standings in recent weeks.
The Whitecaps sit in seventh place in the Western Conference and their last league match against the Portland Timbers saw them churn out an impressive win.
Calling Vancouver a team that has “always given us problems,” Red Bulls head coach Chris Armas is hopeful that the team’s strong road form carries into this weekend. New York holds a league-best 9-2-1 record on the road this year, including a gritty 1-0 win at the Chicago Fire last weekend.
“I think one of the reasons we’ve been successful on the road got to give credit to the guys, their mentality–sticking to their tactics and understanding that it’s not going to be perfect on the road, lots of times you’re not going to have the ball, lots of times there’s home field advantage to the other team,” Armas said.
“[The] guys get the credit for that. They’re up for that challenge because it’s never an easy one. It’s easy for us in the sidelines or in halftime to say ‘Guys, listen, this is what you have to do.’ It’s difficult, it is, you look around the league at how difficult it is to get results, not even wins.”
One major reason for the good play away from Red Bull Arena. is the Red Bulls’ success in the CONCACAF Champions League.
The Red Bulls managed impressive wins on the road at Olimpia and Tijuana before bowing out in the semifinals. The confidence from those results has carried over into strong road form in the regular season.
And as evidenced in their shutout win in Chicago, the Red Bulls’ road form is often not pretty, but very often effective.
“I think our defense is the key. It’s great having those guys in the back. When you see the entire season, there’s a lot of guys who can put out fires and they’re really compact and really tough to play against,” midfielder Daniel Royer said.
“I mean not only the defenders, I think in general as a team we’re more compact than before, maybe. When we have a good day of pressing, it’s really hard to play through us, so I think it’s pretty hard for the opponents to find solutions and yeah, we’re just good at the moment and yeah, we always know that the other side, the flip side, we can create chances and score and so we get close results on the road, but most of the time good results.”
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