HANOVER, N.J. — The New York Red Bulls have their sights set on the Supporters’ Shield this year and have the quality wins on their resume to prove it.
Playing up to the quality of the opponent hasn’t been a problem this season. It’s actually the opposite.
Of the Red Bulls six losses, four have come against teams that are above the playoff line in each conference. There’s been just two head scratching defeats — at Orlando on March 31 and a home defeat to the Chicago Fire three weeks later.
With a Concacaf Champions League semifinal at Chivas de Guadalajara, the Red Bulls utilized a heavily rotated side against the Lions, so that’s an understandable loss.
And then there’s that home loss to the Fire.
“Chicago has always given us trouble and they give most teams trouble,” Red Bulls coach Chris Armas said. “Especially in their building. You saw what they did to us in our building. They were the better team on the day and they deserved it.”
The Red Bulls seek a measure of revenge, but more importantly look to make up ground on idle Atlanta Untied, who have a four-point lead atop the Eastern Conference and Supporters’ Shield race heading into Week 24.
The Red Bulls (14-6-2) have two games in hand on Atlanta, who don’t play again until Aug. 19. Saturday’s match against the struggling Fire is one of those games.
“Right now we’re at the part of the season where it’s really buckle down and every game means a lot to us and every three points means we’re closer to the Supporters’ Shield, we’re closer to the playoffs,” Kemar Lawrence said. “It doesn’t matter the team right now. I think right now it’s about the three points and not dropping a point to anybody at all.”
While the Red Bulls are coming off the high of a win over LAFC, their fourth win in their last five games, Chicago (6-13-5) has struggled mightily. The Fire have lost six consecutive league games and on Wednesday fell to the Philadelphia Union, 3-0, in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals.
The teams are clearly trending in different directions, but Red Bulls midfielder Sean Davis is clearly not judging the Fire by their most recent results.
“I think you do yourself a disservice if you look at their form and you go in underestimating them on past results. I don’t think that does us any good,” Davis said. “Instead every team, like you said, is desperate at this point in the year. Desperate to make playoffs, pick up points, at home especially, so we know it’s going to be a challenge. There are a million reasons why it’s going to be difficult and we have to make sure we show up with the right mentality which I’m confident we will.”