Harrison, NJ – The odds appear to be stacked in Red Bull New York's favor as the club gears up for its Eastern Conference semifinal second leg against D.C. United on Wednesday.
D.C. finished above New York in the regular season, but Hurricane Sandy forced Major League Soccer to switch the location of the home ties in the series.
Should the return match finish level like the 1-1 draw in the first leg at RFK Stadium on Saturday, then the Red Bulls would have the advantage of playing at Red Bull Arena in extra time.
To make matters worse for D.C. United, head coach Ben Olsen faces a selection headache regarding Andy Najar's replacement. The Honduran was shown a red card for hurling the ball at referee Jair Marrufo in frustration, leaving the 19- year-old out for the second leg.
"He's a young kid, he made a young mistake," Olsen told MLSsoccer.com. "I thought [referee Jair Marrufo] let it boil up a little bit with some tough calls against us. That's no excuse to react that way. But we'll adjust. It's what we've been doing all year."
The candidates to replace Najar are Daniel Woolard and Robbie Russell. Woolard hasn't played since August 4 when he suffered a concussion against the Columbus Crew, while Russell has managed just 12 minutes since recovering from surgery for plantar fasciitis.
New York is not without a key absence either.
Rafa Marquez has not been ruled out, but he looks likely to miss the return leg after leaving the series opener at halftime with tightness in his calf, a lingering injury that has limited the Mexican's minutes this season.
"He was very frustrated with the calf," head coach Hans Backe told MLSsoccer.com. "He has been picking up that calf a number of times this season and going into the playoffs, he played very well. Picking up late in the first half, he was just upset over that."
The first leg brought an uninspiring performance from the Red Bulls, who conceded an own goal from Roy Miller before getting bailed out of a loss by Bill Hamid's gaffe moments later.
Marquez stressed after the match that the Red Bulls needed an attitude adjustment in order to make a deep run in the postseason, an assertion that Backe supported.
"When you go into playoffs, they are different games," explained Backe. "It changes. It becomes a different game if you talk about the defending, the pressing game, tackles, and things like that.
"Everyone has to be ready to do the dirty work for 90 minutes and after this game, everyone should be aware of it, the price you have to pay to win the whole way."