Houston, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - Red Bull New York will hope to inch closer to a first-ever MLS Supporters' Shield on Sunday when it takes on the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium.
The Red Bulls enter their final two matches of the season with their destiny in their own hands. Sitting atop the overall MLS table on 53 points, six points the rest of the way would grant New York the top seed in the postseason, the first piece of silverware in club history and guaranteed home field advantage in MLS Cup, should Mike Petke's men advance that far.
But the first step in that process comes with taking points off of the Dynamo, who enter the contest on a five-game unbeaten run.
Houston's impressive form has lifted the club to third place in the Eastern Conference on 48 points, but a postseason berth has not yet been assured. The Dynamo have their sights set finishing in at least third place in order to avoid the dreaded play-in game reserved for the fourth and fifth seeds.
Houston went through the play-in game last season and wound up reaching MLS Cup, but avoiding that scenario this time around would allow for a welcomed bit of rest.
"It's a credit to us to have done that last year and still be able to make it to the final," defender Kofi Sarkodie told MLSsoccer.com. "It showed the strength of the team and the mentality, but if you can have some rest and some down time then it's only going to help you long-term."
Houston's last league defeat came in the form of a 4-1 home loss to the Red Bulls on Sept. 8, but Petke does not believe that was a true indicator of where both teams are at the moment.
"We were missing some players, they were missing some players," Petke told the club's official website of the affair. "They're on a good run lately. They're fighting for a playoff future. So it's going to be a completely different game."
The Dynamo's good run of form seems typical given the manner in which they traditionally finish the season. The club has reached MLS Cup four time in its seven seasons, including the past two in which it fell to the Los Angeles Galaxy.
"Houston over the years always seems to click at the right time, and they are clicking," Petke continued. "They have been a very successful team and we're very aware of that and we're very aware of how dangerous they are at the moment and we're looking at how they can hurt us and how we can hurt them and hopefully get a clear understanding of that through to the players and go in there and put everything on the line."