Categorized | Game Previews

Red Bulls hit Chi-town with playoffs on the line

Posted on 21 October 2008 by ASN Staff

Win and they’re in, but one solitary point from Thursday night’s game in Chicago will likely suffice to get the New York Red Bulls to the postseason dance. With a tie to the Fire, Juan Carlos Osorio’s team will make the playoffs as the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference if the Kansas City Wizards lose their game in New England Saturday and DC United does not defeat the Columbus Crew by at least four goals in Sunday’s game. The point will be enough for New York to qualify as the fourth seed in the Western Conference even if Kansas City wins or ties–as long as DC does not win by at least four goals Sunday.

This complex arrangement is a result of Major League Soccer’s tie breaker hierarchy. The first tie breaker, head-to-head competition, gives Kansas City the edge over Red Bull (the Wizards tied New York on May 1 and defeated them 1-0 on July 10) thereby determining that Kansas City wins out if the teams are tied on points–as is currently the case and as will be the case if the teams get the same result from their final round games.

The head-to-head competition is a push between New York and its archrival DC United (DC beat New York 4-1 on June 14, a favor the Red Bulls returned on Aug. 10. The teams tied their final encounter 0-0 on Aug. 30) thus making goal difference the determining factor. Here New York is -3 (40 goals scored, 43 against) while DC is -7 (43-50), so if Red Bull ties Thursday, DC can leapfrog them by winning by four goals. That is, unless Thursday night’s game somehow ends 7-7 (a virtual uncertainty. Then again this is Metro we’re talking about) in which case DC will finish with fewer goals scored (the final tie-breaker). Of course if DC wins by more than four goals and New York ties, DC ends up with the better goal differential and advances.

Fortunately for the Red Bulls, Juan Carlos Osorio will have access to a full roster at his disposal Thursday (not including the suspended Jon Conway and Jeff Parke, of course). Jorge Rojas, Gabriel Cichero and Dane Richards are all available to start for the first time in three games. The trio missed the Red Bulls’ 1-1 draw against Real Salt Lake last Thursday due to international duty and started Saturday’s game against the Crew on the bench. Richards and Rojas both came into the match as substitutes. Midfielder Juan Pietravallo will return after he serving a one-game suspension for a red card earned in the RSL match. The Argentine has played in 12 games, starting in 11, and has one assist this season.

The good news is there is no chance the team will have to face the New England Revolution in the first round of the playoffs. The Revs ended the Red Bulls season two of the last three years and New York has not defeated its I-95 rival since 2005. In fact, the ‘Bulls measure up well against both possible first round opponent, the Columbus Crew and Houston Dynamo, having won two of three games against the Crew and split the two games with the Dynamo (but winning the home leg against the defending champs 3-0 on Aug. 24).

Then again, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Red Bulls fans and others: what do you expect for Thursday’s match? Will the team clinch a spot in the playoffs?

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