Red Bull New York coach Hans Backe called the timing of the recent international break "perfect," as his club enjoyed a rest ahead of the final two months of the season.
Backe has New York third in the Eastern Conference with seven matches left in the season and, with two matches against first-place Sporting Kansas City left on the schedule, will try climb the table Saturday against the Columbus Crew.
New York (13-7-7) is just three points off the East summit, and takes a five- match unbeaten run into its match at Red Bull Arena against Columbus (12-9-6).
"I think the break came perfect because we had been on the road, tough games," Backe said on the club's website. "Mentally wise I think it was very good to get this break."
The Red Bulls earned a 1-1 draw at Sporting and a 2-2 at D.C. United away from home in their last two matches before the break and play five of their next at RBA.
New York did not need a break from its home form as it remains one of just two unbeaten sides at its own ground. The Red Bulls are 9-0-3 at home and only the Houston Dynamo, with nine wins and five draws, are also unbeaten at home.
Backe has all of his top options to call upon as New York returns to the field for the first time since late August, and 14-goal scorer Kenny Cooper said the match against East rival Columbus was important.
"When you're close in the table to teams and you go against them, they're six- point games," Cooper said. "Because here's a possibility of not only getting points but also taking points off of the other team, and hopefully we can do that in these last couple of games."
Columbus has quietly entered the playoff picture in the East, and sits in the last of the five spots. Although its six-game unbeaten streak was snapped with a 2-0 loss at the New England Revolution, it is just eight off the pace.
The Crew also have one team on their heels, as D.C. United sits one point back in sixth entering the final stretch. At just 4-6-4 on the road, Columbus faces a tough task this week, however.
Columbus lost 4-1 to New York at Crew Stadium earlier this season, but it has changed since the signings of Federico Higuain and Jairo Arrieta. Columbus had two draws and four wins before its loss to New England, and has a new outlook.
"It doesn't matter where we play, we're going to go out with the mentality to win," Columbus defender Josh Williams said. "We all know New York is one of the best teams in the league. I think they have the best style of play. They always play well. They always keep possession, but we're going in there with the mindset of getting three points and nothing less."