Red Bulls aim to dent RSL's playoff hopes
The last time the New York Red Bulls visited Rio Tinto Stadium, they stunned Real Salt Lake to advance to their first MLS Cup final last fall.
Another loss to New York might severely dent Salt Lake's playoff chances this year.
RSL will look to gain a measure of revenge Wednesday night (10 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN360.com) by beating the Red Bulls for the first time while trying to extend their MLS-record road winless streak.
Salt Lake (9-11-7) reached the MLS Cup playoffs for the first time last season and eliminated Chivas USA 3-2 on aggregate in the Western Conference semifinals. The team's run came to a shocking end in the West final, as it hit the post several times to fall 1-0 to New York.
This year, Real is four points behind eighth-place New England for the final playoff position and two back of the ninth-place tie between FC Dallas, D.C. and Toronto FC.
Real has a game in hand on all of those clubs but has failed to gain much ground during an 0-2-1 stretch that continued with a 3-0 loss at Dallas on Sept. 26.
Salt Lake fell behind early in each of its last three games, and it squandered a second-half lead to settle for a 1-all tie in a friendly with C.D. Guadalajara of Mexico last Wednesday.
"Obviously there's a lot of positives you can take out but, at the end of the day, we had a lead and we gave it up," midfielder Will Johnson told the team's official Web site. "If we do that one more time this season, our season is 100 percent over."
RSL trailed after 2 minutes in its last meeting with New York on April 18, losing 2-0 on the road to fall to 0-3-6 in the all-time series.
The Red Bulls (4-18-6) are already assured of finishing with the worst record in MLS, a year after losing 3-1 to Columbus in the Cup final.
One of the reasons for New York's spiral is its poor play on the road. The club hasn't won as the visitor since the West final, going 0-12-2 while getting outscored 25-3. That stretch is part of a league-record 26 straight regular-season games without a win on the road (0-19-7), dating to a 2-1 victory over Los Angeles on May 10, 2008.
A 1-0 loss at San Jose on Oct. 3 extended that dubious record.
Heading into their final road game, the Red Bulls look to avoid joining RSL (2005) and the Galaxy (2003) as the only teams in league history to go winless away from home for an entire season.
"It's time to go out there and just work your (butt) off, to be blunt, try to salvage whatever you can from these last (two) games," defender Mike Petke said. "It's easy to pack it in and throw the towel in when you're not playing for anything, but you can play for pride, you can play for team, the organization, the fans."
New York has tied all four of its regular-season visits to Utah.
RSL visits Toronto on Saturday before concluding the regular season a week later by hosting Colorado.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press