RBNY qualified to the playoffs after narrowly edging out D.C. United with a last minute draw against Nashville SC on decision day. The team concluded the season in seventh place on the Eastern Conference table, while the Philadelphia Union ended comfortably in second.
But despite the noticeable gap in standings, New York Red Bulls head coach Gerhard Struber isn’t worried about his side.
“I think Philly’s one step further like us. They have a group with different age, they have a group that plays longer together,” Struber said.
“But I think right now in our momentum, with all that we learn the last few months, we can beat Philly. This is the big goal on Saturday. We drive not to Philly for ‘nice to be in the playoffs.’ I think right now it’s the time to go in the next round. We have big respect for Philly, but we win on Saturday. That’s it.”
The team is coming off of a difficult season, only turning around their record in the last third of the regular season, managing a 7-1-4 record from mid-September onwards.
The youthful squad overcame an injury-laden backline and persistent issue of points dropped, but managed to rise above and qualify to the playoffs for the 12th consecutive time.
“This is a playoff game with a special mental tension in every single player. I think everyone knows after this game, you go in the next round and we will take the chance. I think we have a big conviction, a big confidence right now about our process, about our style of play. We know right now how dangerous [our way] can be for every opponent in this league. We have to use that,” Struber continued.
“Maybe our advantage is a little bit the last two weeks, we feel every single game is a little bit of a knockout game to come into the playoffs or to leave after the regular season. Now, I think we have some experience in games where it’s much pressure in the bottle. Now we have to bring the right tension, the right balance on Saturday and then we are ready for a fight.”
The winner of Saturday’s match goes on to feature in the conference semifinals against either Nashville SC or Orlando City.