HANOVER, N.J. – Having clinched a spot in the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs this past Saturday, the New York Red Bulls must now try to balance their desire to build momentum against Atlanta United on Sunday (5 pm ET; FS1 in the US, MLS LIVE in Canada) with the need for a shrewd approach against the expansion side.
If the playoffs began today, the sixth-seeded Red Bulls would play at third-seeded Atlanta in the Knockout Round. New York know very well that they could see the Five Stripes in a couple of weeks, and are considering tweaking their approach on Sunday to not give too much away to Atlanta.
“I do think that… we will have to be clever a little bit in terms of not showing all our cards, but at the same time I think for us it will be important to continue to establish playing well,” head coach Jesse Marsch said. “That’s a delicate balance and I don’t want to be cute. I want to make sure that whatever we do we’re going to the playoffs with momentum and feeling strong about what we’re doing. That will be more important than the cleverness of the matchup.”
The Red Bulls spoiled Atlanta’s first match in MLS, beating the club 2-1 at Bobby Dodd Stadium in March. Plenty has happened in the seven months since that meeting, with Atlanta turning into one of the most exciting teams in MLS and the Red Bulls going through an uneven season.
Tyler Adams, who has been so influential for the Red Bulls since the start of summer, didn’t play in the first match against Atlanta while on duty with the US Under-20 national team. Still, he knows getting a win on Sunday and turning the page on an awful September will be key.
“Atlanta could possibly be a playoff potential team we face now,” he said. “But getting these points is important because if we make MLS Cup, racking up those points to hopefully have a home game advantage would be important,” Adams said on Tuesday. “We have to take these last games seriously.”
After their opening weekend affair in March, Marsch told Atlanta players that they were a quality team. He still sees plenty of quality in the attack, but noted that the expansion side are prone to errors in the back.
“Well I think you can take away that they like to pass and spread the field and that they are dynamic in the attack,” Marsch said. “But they’re also susceptible in the back. They’re a good passing team, but that’s the way often you’ve seen them give up chances where they are so spread out that they lose bad balls in the midfield and teams catch them. So we’ll have a game plan in place.”