The latest installment of the "Hudson River Derby" finds the New York Red Bulls and New York City Football Club facing uphill climbs in their respective quests to be among the playoff qualifiers in the Eastern Conference.
Both teams face similar deficits and are hoping to reduce their gaps in the playoff race Saturday afternoon when the clubs meet at Yankee Stadium in New York.
In danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2009, the Red Bulls (7-12-8, 29 points) have seven matches to vault over three teams and erase a five-point deficit. New York trails D.C. United (9-12-7, 34) by five points and is behind Chicago (32 points), Charlotte (31) and NYCFC (6-10-12 record, 30 points).
The Red Bulls are on a season-worst three-match losing streak as they followed up a 1-0 win over D.C. United on Aug. 20 by being blanked against Inter Miami and the New England Revolution before getting dominated in a 4-1 loss at Philadelphia on Sept. 3. Against Philadelphia, Omir Fernandez scored in the 11th minute, but Sean Nealis received a red card in the 44th to force the Red Bulls to finish the match with 10 men.
"This is an important match for us," said Red Bulls coach Troy Lesesne, whose team is 1-5-0 in its past six MLS matches.
"We had three matches in the previous week prior to the (international) break, and we didn't get the results that we wanted. And that's put a little bit more pressure on us obviously to reach our ultimate goal of making the playoffs and giving ourselves a chance to compete in the playoffs to win a championship."
Two years removed from winning the MLS Cup, NYCFC trail DC United by four points. NYCFC went 0-5-6 from April 29 through June 24 and are 2-3-3 in their past eight.
NYCFC stopped a three-game skid with a 2-0 home win over Montreal on Aug. 30 but settled for a 1-1 tie against visiting Vancouver on Sept. 2. Mounsef Bakrar scored in the 55th minute but NYCFC lost the lead five minutes later via a penalty.
"We've been in this moment now of needing to win football games — it's been pretty regular over the last few games knowing we need to get points," NYCFC coach Nick Cushing said. "We were pleased with the three points at home (against Montreal), disappointed to get the draw against Vancouver."
The Red Bulls lead the all-time series 11-8-3 and won their MLS match 1-0 on May 13 before also getting a 1-0 win in the Round of 32 in Leagues Cup on Aug. 3.
—Field Level Media