(Photo credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
The New York Red Bulls and Chicago Fire can see the playoffs from the 11th and 12th spots in the MLS Eastern Conference standings, yet their Saturday match at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., is critical to their seasons.
New York City FC currently holds the ninth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 37 points, yet the Red Bulls (8-12-10, 34 points) sit tied with the Fire (8-12-10, 34 points), both having played one game fewer than NYCFC.
The Red Bulls come into the match as the team in better form, having won 5-3 over D.C. United to break a five-match winless streak. At the same time, Chicago has not been in the win column for seven games, last enjoying an MLS triumph on July 15 against Toronto FC.
Still, their previous result, a 2-2 draw against a dynamic New England Revolution side, gives the Fire hope heading into a critical match despite having just three wins in their last 15 away games. The result also saw an injury to attacking midfielder Brian Gutierrez.
"It's going to be a different game all the way to the end now, every match ... everyone is fighting for that playoff spot," Fire coach Frank Klopas said. "We have to be ready, and we have to approach this game like a final and leave everything on the field; we have confidence, and I believe in the group."
Meanwhile, the Red Bulls enter the match led by top goal-scorer Omir Fernandez, who has six goals on the season and an attack that hit their stride in their last match.
Wednesday, the club secured Colombian defender Andres Reyes to a new three-year MLS contract through 2026, with an option for 2027.
"Andres has developed into one of the top center backs in the league during his time with our club," head coach Troy Lesesne said. "We are thrilled to keep him and look forward to seeing him continue to be a leader in our backline."
With a defensive stalwart locked up, the Red Bulls look towards the weekend and the pivotal match against Chicago, hoping to grab more points off their Eastern Conference foes after playing to a 1-1 draw in April in Chicago.
--Field Level Media