HANOVER, N.J. – Mike Petke won't touch the questions about what it would mean to see his trophy-less New York Red Bulls lift some hardware this season, but that doesn't mean he hasn't thought about it.
After watching a big portion of the Portland Timbers’ 1-0 victory over the Seattle Sounders on Sunday, Petke is fully aware of the golden opportunity his team has in front of them. The Red Bulls are currently even on points with Portland, but lead the race for the Supporters’ Shield on tiebreaker with more victories.
That means if New York win their final two matches of the season – at Houston this coming Sunday and at home against Chicago on Oct. 27 – they will win the first piece of significant silverware in club history.
“I don’t need to put any more pressure on my players than are already on it,” Petke told reporters on Tuesday when asked about the Red Bulls chance to win the league. “However, I think we have a good mentality this year. I think my players have showed me and the coaching staff a good mentality as far as coming up big at the right times.
“It comes down to us now. There’s not a team that can knock us off our pedestal except for the New York Red Bulls to knock ourselves off, and I think that they’re up for the challenge.”
The players are also fully cognizant of what is at stake in these final two weeks of the regular season. But, like their rookie head coach, they are trying to take a measured approach to things, truly living by the old cliché of taking it one game at a time.
“This is kind of the mood we’ve had kind of all year, that we’re not focusing on anyone else but ourselves,” Connor Lade told MLSsoccer.com at Tuesday's training. “You always need some luck to win things and the results have gone our way. We’re in a position where we can try to control what we need to control.
“We have a tough Houston game away and that’s what we’re focusing on now because the last time we went out there we got a good result but they were missing some of their key players. We’re just focusing on having a good week of training [going] into that game and what happens after that happens.”
That match against the Dynamo will not be an easy one. Houston will be desperate for points as they are still looking to secure their place in the postseason and will also be aiming to avenge the 4-1 loss they suffered at home to the Red Bulls last month.
New York, who had never won in Houston in a regular season match prior to that Sept. 8 meeting, know that Sunday’s game will not be a cakewalk. But they're confident they can take care of business on the road against the Dynamo again.
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“We’re in a good mood and confident about what we are doing and we believe about what we are doing, and that’s the big difference from earlier this season,” center back Markus Holgersson told MLSsoccer.com.“That is a good sign and [if we] can just keep up the last two games [then] we are going into the playoffs with high confidence.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by e-mail at Franco8813@gmail.com.