HANOVER, N.J. — Tyler Adams went to bed Wednesday night feeling pretty good. The San Jose Earthquakes were leading Atlanta United and the prospect of dropped points for the Supporters’ Shield leaders was cause for a relaxing night of sleep.
Another Atlanta win means the Red Bulls can’t settle for anything less when they take on a desperate Toronto FC side at Red Bull Arena Saturday.
“You wake up and see that result and it’s a bummer than San Jose couldn’t get away with the points, but at the end of the day we know we need to collect our points,” Adams said. “We dropped a couple of points lately and Toronto is a good opportunity.”
Entering the weekend, Atlanta have a four-point lead over the Red Bulls in the Shield chase with five games remaining for each team. They meet next Sunday at Red Bull Arena, but New York will not only need to win, but hope Atlanta slips up at some point to be able to overtake their Eastern Conference foes.
So is that added pressure put on Saturday’s home game against the Reds?
“We’ve had pressure since the beginning of the season,” fullback Michael Amir Murillo said through a translator. “We knew what our goals were and that’s to win the MLS Cup and of course the Supporters’ Shield. Obviously Atlanta is having a good season. It’s going to be an important match come the 30th, but what we’re trying to do is continue to win games. In terms of pressure, we’ve had pressure all season so nothing changes.”
Of course, Toronto FC comes to Red Bull Arena in dire straits, needing three points to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. Although the Red Bulls are just one of two teams to have already clinched a postseason berth — Atlanta being the other — New York set out to win the Shield at the start of the season and that goal doesn’t change.
If anything, Red Bulls coach Chris Armas said, Atlanta’s dramatic win at San Jose gives more clarity, not pressure, to the Red Bulls situation
“It’s just black and white for me,” Armas said. “We have three points [on Saturday] we can take advantage of. I don’t think it’s added pressure. It’s just clear. There’s no gray area.”
Like Adams, central defender Tim Parker lamented that “San Jose could have done us a favor,” but that doesn’t change the goal come Saturday.
“We go into every game thinking we want to win, especially playing at Red Bull Arena,” Parker said. “I don’t think there’s added pressure, but we want to try to win the Shield so we’re going to try and win out.”