New York Red Bulls sticking together, building momentum towards playoffs

HARRISON, N.J. — When the New York Red Bulls played their last home game, the boos rained down at the final whistle, with many in the South Ward chanting for head coach Chris Armas to get fired. 

A loss to the Seattle Sounders followed — the club’s third consecutive defeat — and missing the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs was appearing to be a real possibility. 

But the Red Bulls bore down, gutted out a 2-0 win in Portland and, on Sunday, flexed their muscle against the rival Philadelphia Union by the same scoreline

This time, the cheers cascaded around Red Bull Arena to culminate a huge week for the club. 

“People talk about a rollercoaster season, it’s been hard challenges,” Armas said. “We’ve seen teams in our league crumble this year when faced with adversity and that group has stuck together.”

For at least a few hours, the Red Bulls moved up to fourth place in the Eastern Conference before they were leapfrogged by D.C. United after their 2-0 home win over the Sounders later Sunday night. 

The longtime rivals meet next Sunday in a game that could determine home field at least for a portion of the postseason. 

“We want to build momentum going into the playoffs,” center back Aaron Long said. “We’ve been doing that the last two games and if we can keep that rolling for two more games, it’s gonna be huge for us. That's all we're focused on really is keeping this thing rolling right now.”

The Red Bulls clinched their playoff spot late Saturday night when three results featuring other Eastern Conference teams went their way. But there was no complacency Sunday night. 

“I feel right now, everything we need to do, we need to do that with urgency,” left back Kemar Lawrence said. “We need to be aggressive. And we need to stamp our class to show people that when you play us that we will run you over.”

Red Bull Arena hasn’t been the fortress it has in previous years with the club losing more games this year (five) than the last two years combined. 

But the Red Bulls feel beating the Union the way they did, following a victory in Portland, could set them up well down the stretch of the season. 

“We're building some momentum here,” goalkeeper Luis Robles said. “We’re not too high, not too low. We're just being realistic. And I think the most encouraging thing about those two games and those two results, not just the three points for both. But we look like us. We're playing Red Bulls soccer and that's really encouraging.”