UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. — After proclaiming the New York Red Bulls were “definitely” and “absolutely” a playoff team following their 2-2 home draw against the Chicago Fire, manager Hans Backe was doing some backtracking on Monday.
“It will be tough, very tough,” Backe said of his club’s postseason hopes. “It’s still up to us.”
The Swedish manager has already outlined what it will take for his team to make it to the playoffs and it is a tall order.
“With nine games to go, should be enough to win half of them, win five games,” Backe said. “Probably need 45 points. We won the East last year with 51 points.”
Last Saturday night, the Red Bulls bounced back from a 3-0 loss to Real Salt Lake the weekend before and tied the Chicago Fire 2-2 at Red Bull Arena. Backe was optimistic in the wake of the draw, even though his side had dominated the match but could only split the points with the lowly Fire, the last-place team in the Eastern Conference.
Despite the result, Backe was convinced that New York, who had slipped from first place in the Eastern Conference to third place in a month’s time, was a team headed for the postseason.
“As it looked today, definitely yes,” Backe said on Saturday. “Absolutely, this is a playoff team. And if we reach the playoffs, I am absolutely sure we will be very dangerous.”
The reality is that the Red Bulls are now just a point ahead of the Houston Dynamo, Sporting Kansas City and D.C. United for third place in the Eastern Conference and all of those teams have at least one game in hand on New York as the push for the playoffs begins in earnest.
It begins on Saturday night in Foxborough, Mass., where the Red Bulls meet the New England Revolution. For a team that started the season with hopes and expectations of the Supporters’ Shield, it is now time for the Red Bulls to dig deep as they battle for their playoff lives.
“We fully expect to make the playoffs … that’s our expectation,” defender Chris Albright said. “We know it’s sort of time to kick it in. We’ve put ourselves in a position where points are imperative, not a luxury.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer