If the New York Red Bulls are to make a 12th straight Audi MLS Cup Playoffs appearance, Friday night’s showing at DRV PNK Stadium was a good place to start.
Head coach Gerhard Struber’s team poured on the goals, routing Inter Miami CF 4-0 away behind Fabio’s brace and a man-of-the-match performance from midfielder Omir Fernandez. It sure helped that Miami center back Nicolas Figal was sent off in the 38th minute, but this one was all Red Bulls from start to finish.
RBNY captain and midfielder Sean Davis was elated by the performance, one where they outshot the hosts 27-2 and snapped a three-game winless run. Davis said they had “suffered” and finally got rewarded.
“I think it just reinforces that we can execute at a high level in terms of how we play,” Davis said. “We have a unique playing style and that requires everyone to be on the same page for 90 minutes.
“I think it is really important for our group, especially being a younger team, to stick with our principles, to stick with the process, to show up every day with the right intensity that when our backs are against the wall, it is important to show who we really are. And to have a game like this, it gives us a lot of momentum going forward.”
The Red Bulls, who have dropped a league-leading 21 points from winning positions this year, made sure to build upon Patryk Klimala’s 18th-minute opener. Fernandez struck via a long throw-in in the 31st minute, then Fabio thumped home second-half headers to complete the Magic City onslaught.
Struber, the Austrian manager who arrived late last year from English Championship side Barnsley FC, oversees the youngest roster in MLS (average age under 23). That’s produced ups and downs, but it also perhaps gave them an advantage when playing their third game in seven days.
“Right now, a good feeling in my brain and my soul,” Struber said. “I think we work so hard today, in the end with success and with the right result. ... I think we control the whole 90 minutes, and, in the end, I can see today extreme energy from my team with a high discipline to be clear in our match plan and in the action.”
The first encounter comes Wednesday at home (8 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+), then they’ll head to Yankee Stadium next Saturday for a rematch (7:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+). It could be a make-or-break stretch for a side that sits 11th in the Eastern Conference standings with 11 regular-season games remaining.
“We realize our situation in the table,” Struber said. “It looks not sexy also right now, and we have to make the necessary steps. Maybe it was winning to help us, especially from the mental side was very important. I think we have to stay very humble, make the next step, very focused, very concentrated for what is coming.”
The top seven teams per conference will qualify for the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. For a club that hasn’t missed the postseason since 2009, that only increases pressure against NYCFC.
“Those are massive games, not only for our club, our fans, our locker room, and our staff, but also for our playoff push,” Davis said. “So, it is important that we use this momentum in the right way.”