After looking like it could challenge for the top spot in the Eastern Conference for much of the season, Red Bull New York finds itself fighting for its playoff life with just two games to go.
The Red Bulls can clinch a postseason berth with a victory over Sporting Kansas City at Red Bull Arena on Saturday, but they certainly have struggled against the better teams in MLS this season.
New York's home form has been called into question of late as well. After going nearly the entire season without losing a match at Red Bull Arena, the club has lost two of their last three at the venue, most recently falling to the Chicago Fire.
"I know we're not performing as we normally can," said Jan Gunnar Solli, "and especially at home, it's just frustrating as the game goes. I feel like we created chances in the first half [against Chicago], in the second half I felt like it was a battle out there and neither team was creating many chances until they scored the first goal."
There are some selection concerns for Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe ahead of the massive clash. Brandon Barklage is not expected to be available after suffering a plantar fascia injury in training, while Wilman Conde will not feature due to personal reasons.
"We can probably choose from Connor Lade, Heath Pearce, Solli," Backe said. "[Jonathan] Borrajo is a fourth option, but two of these four guys have to play on Saturday."
Sporting is sure to provide a stern test to New York's aspirations of taking three points.
Kansas City comes into the match riding a 10-game unbeaten streak in league play, its longest such streak of the season.
The Eastern Conference leaders are led by Graham Zusi, who leads MLS with 15 assists this season, and C.J. Sapong, who has scored three goals in his last five games.
The break for international fixtures is one thing that could potentially slow Sporting down. Striker Kei Kamara featured for the Sierra Leone national team, and Zusi was involved for the United States.
"Zusi obviously had a great game the last time he played, and hopefully he gets another run at it," left back Seth Sinovic said. "Kei's got a lot of traveling to do. Hopefully, they both come back fresh."