UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – Ask and ye shall receive.
After clinching a playoff berth with a 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Union last Thursday, the New York Red Bulls made very clear they had preferences for their Wild Card opponents. Midfielder Joel Lindpere told reporters that he viewed Real Salt Lake and Colorado as the two toughest teams to play on the road in the league.
“If there are any options, I’d play Dallas,” Lindpere said.
Wish granted. New York will travel down to Frisco, Texas, to take on FC Dallas on Wednesday night (9 pm ET, FOX Soccer/TSN 2) for their first match in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
After drawing 2-2 against FCD at home on July 23, the Red Bulls broke out of what had been an eight-game winless streak in the reverse fixture on Sept. 17. It was the first match of a run where New York played a cynical style to go 4-2-1 and make a last-gasp push into the playoffs.
“Obviously that’s the game that kind of got everything going to finish the season up,” defender Tim Ream said. “There’s definitely a little more confidence going down there. We know that it’s much easier to go down there, get a result – come on out of there with a victory.”
The Red Bulls have not lost to FC Dallas in head coach Hans Backe’s two years at the helm, posting a 2-0-2 record.
“We have a good track record against Dallas,” Backe said. “That also, probably, will help our play. We’ve seen that. We can match them in tight games — all four [have been tight]. It’s a good sign for us.”
But with confidence comes respect, as well. FCD finished the regular season with the fourth-best record in the league, and last year made it all the way to MLS Cup before falling just short against the Colorado Rapids. Captain Thierry Henry went so far as to call Dallas “a beautiful team to watch.”
“We all know it’s a knockout game, we know it’s going to be a difficult task,” Henry said. “Even though Dallas had a poor run at the end, I think for me it’s still one of the best teams in this league. We’re going to have to do something amazing to get a win, but it’s doable.”