Red Bull Arena is sold out tonight for RBNY’s potential playoff-clincher against #1 Sporting KC. Photo via newyorkredbulls on Facebook.
We only have two more weekends in MLS and the race to the Cup is at its boiling point.
Three of today’s six matches have major playoff implications in the Eastern Conference, as the Red Bulls, Dynamo and Crew all look to clinch their spots. Sporting KC and Chicago Fire can rest a little more comfortably in their matches with the Red Bulls and Revs, knowing they’re already in. But SKC doesn’t want to relinquish that top spot and the Fire can catch up to them with three points tonight. Can you feel the heat?
The only issue with tonight’s action? It’s all on at the same time! If only MLS had its version of NFL RedZone.
Not only that, but the U.S. Women’s National Team resumes their Olympic Victory Tour at 6:30pm ET with a friendly against Germany, ranked #2 in the world. And as your resident USWNT writer, you know I’m not missing that one. My DVR will be on overdrive. Here’s what I’ll be watching and my predictions:
New York Red Bulls vs Sporting KC. – 7:00pm ET, Red Bull Arena (MSG+ NY)
The Red Bulls are home, in front of a sellout crowd, facing the #1 team in the conference. Win and they’re in. Piece of cake, right?
RBNY spent the season aggressively acquiring new talent — Sebastian Le Toux, Heath Pearce, Tim Cahill – to make sure they’re still standing on December 1. The Red Bulls have only lost 2 games at home this season, so the chances that they pull out 3 points in this one are pretty high. Then again, who was their first home loss to? Oh, right. Sporting KC.
Now, even if they lose, RBNY can still get in with a Crew loss at D.C. United today, but this team doesn’t want to leave their playoff chances in anyone else’s hands, especially their rivals down I-95. If they draw against KC, they can still get in with a Dynamo loss to Philadelphia (not likely) or a draw between the Crew and United.
My pick: Red Bulls 2 – 1 Sporting KC
U.S. Women’s National Team vs Germany - 6:30pm ET, Toyota Park (FOX Soccer Channel)
While the Chicago Fire are on the road at New England, their home turf will be occupied by the two top women’s soccer teams in the world: USA and Germany. Yes, it’s only a friendly and there’s no major international tournament in sight until the 2015 World Cup, but there’s something different about this one. It’s the U.S’s first match in five years without Pia Sundhage at the helm. USWNT Development Director, Jill Ellis, will step in as interim head coach.
But it’s not just about a new head coach. This is the beginning of a new era for the U.S. Women. It’s unlikely that the U.S.’s lower spine, Christie Rampone and Shannon Boxx, will return for the 2015 World Cup. Abby Wambach will be 35. Youth is on the rise. Becky Sauerbrunn will likely anchor the center of the backfield, but the rest of the defense is up for grabs. Will Olympic heroine Carli Lloyd keep her role as the attacking central midfielder, or will Lauren Cheney or even Tobin Heath supplant her? We’re going to see more of Sydney Leroux, for sure. But will Olympic alternate Christen Press get in the fold? This may be a Fan Tribute Tour for their Olympic victory, and in this match we’ll see the familiar faces, but everything is changing. The competition for 2015 starts now.
My pick: USA 3- 2 GER
Follow @AerysSoccer on Twitter for MLS and U.S. Soccer commentary throughout the weekend. You can also follow me at @dwag29 if you can put up with my during commentary Notre Dame and Chicago Bears football games.