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Red Bulls clinging to playoff life at Nashville SC

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A strong recovery from a horrific start has allowed the New York Red Bulls to control their own fate on Decision Day.

If the Red Bulls get a win or a tie out of their visit to Nashville SC on Sunday, the final day of the MLS regular season, they reach the playoffs for the 12th straight season. Otherwise, things get complicated.

New York (13-12-8, 47 points) enters Decision Day holding the seventh, and final, playoff seed in the Eastern Conference. The club is one point behind Orlando City and Atlanta United, who each own one fewer win. The Red Bulls are three points behind fourth-place New York City FC, who own two more wins.

If New York cannot take care of business via a win or tie, it can get in the playoffs if CF Montreal lose or tie against Orlando, D.C. United lose or tie versus FC Toronto and the Columbus Crew lose or tie against the Chicago Fire.

Other ways to get in without a win or tie are Montreal losing or tying against Orlando, D.C. losing or tying versus Toronto and New York having a better goal differential than Columbus. New York has a plus-six differential while Columbus is minus-one.

A top-four seed for the Red Bulls is not likely because of NYCFC’s far better goal differential.

New York was winless over a seven-game stretch into mid-August but is 7-1-3 in its past 11 games, a stretch where it has produced seven shutouts. The Red Bulls could have earned a playoff spot with a victory Wednesday but settled for a 0-0 draw against Atlanta, despite a 15-2 advantage in shots.

“Just really proud of the staff and players for how we have come together, how in the toughest moments when we had our backs up against the wall that we were able to stick together and get the results,” Red Bulls captain Sean Davis said. “So, it has given us a great opportunity on Sunday to get into the playoffs and ultimately, go for the MLS Cup, and that is the goal.”

Nashville (12-4-17, 53 points) is tied with New England for the fewest losses in the league but also has tied the most games. Nashville has the same total of points as the second-place Philadelphia Union, but holds the third spot because of the wins tiebreaker.

Nashville SC are also unbeaten at home with an 8-0-8 mark and return home after scoring seven times in a three-game trip to Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Orlando. After C.J. Sapong and Randall Leal scored two goals apiece in a 6-3 win Oct. 27 at Cincinnati that clinched a playoff spot, Hany Mukhtar scored his 15th goal in the 53rd minute of a 1-1 tie with Orlando on Wednesday.

“We’re going to try and earn points, but they all know full well we’re trying to secure a top two or three spot so it should be a very, very good game,” Nashville coach Gary Smith said.

–Field Level Media

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