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There are seven different permutations that will get the New York Red Bulls into the MLS Cup playoffs. But the Red Bulls players have just one concern heading into their regular-season finale at Chicago Thursday night.
“If we win, we’re in,” said Red Bulls midfielder Dave Van Den Bergh. “It’s as easy as that.”
That is true. A victory at Toyota Park means the Red Bulls book their package into the postseason as a wild card in either the Eastern Conference, where they’d play the Supporters’ Shield-winning Columbus Crew, or into the West where they’ll face the two-time defending MLS Cup champion Houston Dynamo.
“We don’t want to be, after this game, waiting for something else to happen in order for us to qualify for the playoffs,” Juan Pablo Angel said. “We’ve got to get the job done and fly back nice and safe with the qualification in our hands.”
The Red Bulls, which have but one road win this season (against the Los Angeles Galaxy) can still clinch a berth without a win, but that means they would have to wait until the weekend to learn its fate.
“I don’t want to go there thinking we’ll be okay if the other results go well,” Red Bulls coach Juan Carlos Osorio said. “We have our future in our hands and we have to make sure we go there ready to compete and ready to play and hopefully get the three points.”
“It will be an agony to go through three days waiting for results to really know if we are in it,” he added.
The Fire have already locked up their playoff position and have little to play for, unless of course you consider the vendetta Chicago owner has against Osorio.
“For obvious circumstances I think they will come out with the best team they have and that’s (what) I’m preparing for,” Osorio said. “In my opinion, we’re playing against one of the best teams in this league with, as I have said in the past, some of the best players, too.”
With the exception of Jeff Parke and Jon Conway, Osorio will have as close to a full squad to choose from for one of the first times this year. In fact, he apologized to reporters Thursday afternoon for keeping them waiting for an hour because he was speaking to three players who were pleading their cases to get into Osorio’s starting XI.
“It’s always a difficult thing, but I’m here to do the job and to make decisions and hopefully I get those decisions right,” Osorio said.
One player who will not be flying to Chicago on Wednesday is Carlos Mendes, who instead is off to Munich to have sports hernia surgery on Thursday. As was the case for van den Bergh, Dr. Ulrike Muschaweck will perform a Minimal Repair Technique. Mendes is expected to be out 2-3 weeks.