Major League Soccer Preview: New York Red Bulls vs. New England Revolution

Last weekend, the New York Red Bulls suffered a disappointing loss to the Philadelphia Union at Red Bull Arena. It was an unfortunate result because the Red Bulls held Philadelphia, who have scored the most goals as a team in Major League Soccer (MLS) this season, but crumbled in a second half by giving up two goals and not being able to answer back against the frontrunner to win MLS supporters shield.

However, this season the Red Bulls who are managed by Gerhard Struber have remained in the top-four places in the standings all season and even led the league briefly in June. Currently, the Red and White are third place in the MLS Eastern Conference and as long as they do not fall below fourth place, MLS Audi Cup Playoff soccer will take place in Harrison, New Jersey this Fall for the first time since 2018.

That being said, there are only four matches remaining in the season and the Red Bulls are in position to, both, make their 13th straight postseason appearance (MLS record) and finish in third place, which would likely have them host the sixth-place team—either Columbus or Cincinnati, but because Cincy get to play three of MLS’s worst teams in coming weeks, they have an easier path to the playoffs.

Recently, Gerhard Struber discussed what is at stake in the Red Bulls upcoming date with the Revolution, who currently sit just two points out of the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

We are prepared, we know what's to come on Saturday. For them, it’s a little bit of a Do or Die game when we speak about the playoffs, and we have to be focused…and realize [that] with a victory it's about ninety percent clear that we stay in the playoffs this season. We have to invest everything on Saturday and not let Bou and Gil come into their typical moments.”

Comparing Conference Rivals

Last season, MLS’s Most Valuable Player was Carles Gil, who led MLS with 18 assists and this year ranks second with 13. This means that the Spaniard is a player that the Red Bulls entire team has to do a good job of defending, a task that Coach Struber wants to see his side take on from the opening whistle of Saturday’s six o’clock start.

Carles Gil always has solutions, and you cannot stop him in every action. He is, I would say one of the most interesting [players] in the league with an outstanding football brain and outstanding technique. This makes it not so easy to handle him but we will create overload moments against him, we will give him no time and no space.

The Revolution enter this match having beaten NYCFC, who were 17 points clear of them in the table, 3-0. Because the Revs are fighting for their playoff lives, that game and the one on Saturday mean more to them than it does to their opponents and the Red Bulls must be prepared to deal with a team that is punching above their weight at the moment.

One of the Red Bulls’s most consistent starting eleven players this year has been Sean Nealis. The 25-year-old, center back from Massapequa, New York has played in 29 of his team’s 30 games during the 2022 MLS season and started in each one of those games. He alluded to a ‘next man up’ mentality within the Red Bull locker room when discussing Aaron Long and Andres Reyes, two defenders who have been starting on the backline along with Nealis in recent games and three players who are key to the team’s success moving forward.

 A lot of team’s DPs and top players are their forwards and their ‘tens.’ Like Gil and Bou, those guys will hurt you, if you make one mistake. Me, Aaron, and Andres, have to be sharp, game-in and game-out. As was the case against Philly, we had two lapses in judgement and it stung after that game, so, we have to be better, and we have to be sharper throughout the whole game.

The match is scheduled for an early 6:00 PM start and the New York Red Bulls announced earlier today that their midfielder Dru Yearwood has been suspended three games for kicking a ball into the stands during his team’s last home match. This is a big blow as Yearwood had been making consistent starts for New York and was helping rookie Daniel Edelman learn the ropes.

Luckily for Red Bull, Edelman who is from Warren New Jersey seems to be adjusting to the MLS level just fine and the team’s leader in minutes-played this season, Sean Nealis remained steadfast that whoever the next Red Bull up is, they will be equal to the task at hand.

We’ve had different guys step up and step in. We’ve got a young team that has had to grow up quickly throughout this year and these next few games are going to be big for a lot of guys, especially those sixes, Christian, Dan and Frank solidifying that role with Dru [Yearwood] being out. We’ve had a lot of guys who have stepped up and who need to continue stepping up in this push for the playoffs.

Anthony Paradiso