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New York Red Bulls not concerned about LAFC threat to points record

For the third consecutive season, a team is in position to set a new regular season points record.

May 19, 2019; Harrison, NJ, USA; New York Red Bulls head coach Chris Armas looks on during the first half against Atlanta United at Red Bull Arena. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

HANOVER, N.J. — With a Decision Day victory at home over the Colorado Rapids, LAFC would end a Supporters’ Shield-winning regular season with 72 points, setting a new MLS points record.

It would be one more than the New York Red Bulls accrued in their Supporters’ Shield season a year ago.

“I love Bob Bradley — he’s my mentor,” Red Bulls coach Chris Armas said. “I think the world of him. If they break that record, then it’s theirs, they earned that. It meant something to me last year. It means nothing to me right now because I can’t control [it]. If another team bests it, it’s theirs, good for them.”

Armas said breaking the record previously held by Toronto FC the year before was a big deal to him when it happened, but believes that sentiment wasn’t shared around the league or by pundits.

There were never references of “best team ever” for that Red Bulls team like there were for treble-winning Toronto in 2017 or even LAFC this season.

“Even when we last year [win the] Supporters’ Shield, I said I don’t think it was talked about that much — not a big deal was made, a record-breaking season. It was short-lived,” Armas said. “I’m sure we’ll hear a lot of noise if that record is broken.”

It’s part of what Armas said is a regular underdog mentality he and his team carry with them throughout the season. It’s a mentality, he said, is embodied in a Rocky Balboa ornament he hangs annually on his family’s Christmas tree.

“I’ve always felt that way, as the underdog and operated in a good way from playing behind and always trying to fight to get on top,” he said. “When they get there, always maintain that thinking like you’re No. 1 and fighting like you always have something to prove. That’s something I can relate to. And I think that the guys know, based on a lot of different reasons that I won’t go into, that I don’t think anyone thinks we’re the favorites ever.”

That message has carried on to his players. Brian White talked about the Red Bulls being written off after three consecutive losses last month.

Proving doubters wrong has been part of the fuel during this late regular-season run of three consecutive clean sheets.

“With our backs against the wall a little bit and people doubting us, I think that’s where we started to shine a little bit and just continue to believe in ourselves as a group,” White said.

So, if LAFC break the record, Armas will congratulate his former coach, but that wasn’t the focus because the goal was to chase that elusive first MLS Cup.

And like Rocky Balboa, the ultimate underdog who worked his way from the streets of Philadelphia to becoming the heavyweight champion, the Red Bulls “enjoy fighting,” according to Armas.

“We’ve never won the championship. We won Supporters’ Shied, but we want to win the ultimate and we’re going after it all the time,” Armas said. “I think we work that way. We behave that way. And we believe it. … We just know we have to fight for everything we get. We enjoy doing it. We enjoy fighting.”

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