COLUMBUS, Ohio – For Major League Soccer’s best-ever regular-season team, things didn't go to plan on Sunday.
But down a goal with a chance to save their season at home, the New York Red Bulls aren’t panicked just yet.
New York returns to Red Bull Arena next Sunday (7:30 pm ET | FS1, TSN, TVAS) trailing Columbus Crew SC by a goal after Columbus’s 1-0 win Sunday afternoon, their second shocking playoff result in four days. And with a win needed to advance, New York coach Chris Armas said his team is looking forward to getting back home.
“That’s what you enjoy about the homefield advantage,” he said. “In the second leg, where it’s all determined, you get to do it in front of your home fans and family. That’s where we are very, very comfortable, so we’re excited about that opportunity.”
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The Red Bulls’ 71-point regular season is the best in MLS history, and comes with higher expectations than ever from fans.
But Armas doesn’t believe his team is feeling an added burden from that accomplishment.
“We haven’t talked about pressure and expectations, and we won’t start that dialogue now,” he said. “We know we defend well, we did again tonight. We really limited their chances, their big chances, so in many ways, we felt in control. The week is going to be about getting physically, tactically, and technically sharp. We’ll go home and get ready for the next game with a lot of excitement in front of our home fans, where we’ve been very, very good.”
The New York squad is a seasoned one, and goalkeeper Luis Robles doesn’t expect his team to crumble in this moment.
“I think when we look at ourselves we just feel like that wasn’t our best, and that’s tough to swallow right now,” he said. “But you look at this group and you see that we’ve been in some great experiences — whether it’s [Concacaf] Champions League, whether it’s last year’s playoffs, whether it’s the U.S. Open Cup — we’ve had our back against the wall before. The belief is high and the confidence is great that we’re going to do something special and that we have what it takes to overcome this obstacle.”
And while he knows trailing 1-0 isn't a great position heading into the second leg, Armas doesn't see it as insurmountable.
“It’s not easy on the road,” he said. “In this league, you can see it, most teams are pretty good at home, and Columbus [Crew SC] is very good at home. It hurts a little that we don’t get the perfect result here, but certainly, 90 minutes to get the job done at home, we feel good about that.”