HANOVER, N.J. — Consistency week to week has been a problem for the New York Red Bulls this year, but if there’s been one constant it’s the team’s ability to rise to the occasion against the league’s best teams.
The greater the challenge, the better the Red Bulls play.
And there’s no bigger challenge this year than playing LAFC at Banc of California Stadium, which is what’s next for the New York Red Bulls Sunday night.
“We’ve done pretty well against Western Conference teams traditionally and this year as well, But this is THE team, a team that everyone’s chasing right now,” goalkeeper Luis Robles said. “And up until this point, they’ve been head and shoulders above everyone, so it’s going to be a great test for us.”
The Red Bulls are 4-2-2 against the Western Conference this year, including a 3-2 win over the LA Galaxy at Red Bull Arena in May. New York also defeated defending MLS Cup champions Atlanta United 1-0 and New York City FC 2-1.
Those two games were also in Harrison. The Red Bulls are 3-6-3 on the road this season.
“I think we’ve done well against better teams this year. But we have to continue to improve against all teams,” midfielder Sean Davis said. “It doesn’t matter who we play, we have to show up with the right mentality. It doesn’t matter if we’re playing teams that are just trying to kick it long, we have to show up with the right mentality and how to combat that and play well.”
Red Bulls coach Chris Armas said his team has played well against possession-based teams who remain true to their style, like the LA Galaxy, Atlanta and NYCFC. When teams abandon their style and resort to long balls, it makes his team uncomfortable.
But Armas said there’s no denying these Red Bulls have big-game experience.
“We have a team that’s largely been together for some time, and we’ve played in Champions League, Open Cup runs, in playoffs every year,” Armas said. “So I think we understand what those games are like when you can’t let things slip.”
A year ago, the Red Bulls defeated LAFC 2-1 at Red Bull Arena with Danny Royer scoring a brace en route to winning a third Supporters’ Shield title in six years. Now it’s LAFC chasing a first Shield and the Red Bulls’ record for regular season points, while New York is chasing last year’s consistency.
“Another thing that has become apparent this season is that we play to the level or opponent,” Robles said. “So I’m hoping that plays out the same way against LAFC because they’re the top team. They’re the team that everyone’s gunning for. And it’s going to be a really good test for us.”
“We are really looking forward to this matchup, It’s coming off the heels of a good game against Toronto, especially the second half,” Davis said. “I think we’re in a good way right now, but it has been back and forth this season. This is an opportunity to continue to take steps forward and put a consistent run of games together, I think that’d be really important for us heading into this last stretch of 10 games.”