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If history is any indication — both in terms of the regular season and the club’s playoff history — the New York Red Bulls are likely toast in tomorrow’s winner-take-all Western Conference playoff decider against the Houston Dynamo. After all, they have won just one game on the road this year (May 10 at Galaxy), while Houston has just one loss at home this year (June 12 vs. New England).
When you look at both teams’ playoff history, the odds get even longer for the Red Bulls. Houston is 4-0 all-time in home playoff games. The Red Bulls? They have posted a putrid 1-9-3 in road playoff games all-time, with their only win coming against Dallas in 2000, the only playoff series the club has ever won.
The Red Bulls aren’t spending much time thinking about the results of playoffs past. They are focusing on their strong performance in their 1-1 tie vs. the Dynamo last Saturday at Giants Stadium, a performance they think will be good enough to post a win on Sunday if they can repeat it.
"We’re taking this just as a football game to be won," Red Bulls coach Juan Carlos Osorio said. "We’re just going with the same approach. Yes, you think about what they do and how good they are, but we need to be thinking about what can we do to win this game. Hopefully the guys can execute the plan and then we can get the good result."
So what should we expect from the Red Bulls lineup? If Friday’s training session at Montclair State University is any indication, head coach Juan Carlos Osorio will likely go with the same starting XI that was five minutes away from beating the Dynamo last week.
That team — Danny Cepero, Chris Leitch, Andrew Boyens, Diego Jimenez, Kevin Goldthwaite, Dave van den Bergh, Luke Sassano, Sinisa Ubiparipovic, Dane Richards, Juan Pablo Angel and John Wolyniec — was on the field together for an end-of-practice scrimmage.
Richards and Jimenez, who both had injury concerns earlier in the week, both looked healthy and Osorio said both were good to go for Sunday.
"He’s fine," Osorio said of Jimenez, who has been dealing with a knee injury. "Some of the guys have knocks, but they’re okay too."
At the end of training, the Red Bulls practiced penalty kicks and Cepero also took his share of kicks from the spot.
Of particular importance, Dave van den Bergh said, is for the Red Bulls to stay composed in the opening 20 minutes and not concede a goal.
"We need to get through the first 20 (minutes) and maybe throw a couple punches of our own," van den Bergh said. "We’ve come out flying a couple of times this season. That’s key, to not go down early because then it’s going to be a tough game because they know how to manage those types of games."
Spirits were high at the Red Bulls training facility, especially coming off a 1-1 draw at Giants Stadium last weekend in the opening leg.
"I played in New York for a number of years and being from the area, it’s definitely a little bit more important for me," Wolyniec said. "Anytime you get into the playoffs it’s a short run to the finals. We know that we have to take advantage of opportunities. We win this game and we’re in the semifinals."