A win over the floundering New England Revolution in tonight’s regular season finale will seal the Eastern Conference title for the 14-9-6 Red Bulls and complete one of the biggest one-season turnarounds in MLS history.
A 10-win improvement over the Red Bulls’ franchise-worst 5-19-6 in 2009 would tie them with their forebears, the MetroStars, who improved by 10 wins from 1999-2000.
Tying the Revolution (9-15-5) also would give RBNY the conference title, provided second-place Columbus loses or ties with Philadelphia.
The Red Bulls will be looking to regain some of the momentum of a five-game winning streak that their 2-1 setback to Philadelphia snapped last week.
Despite having 13-goal scorer Juan Pablo Angel and French star Thierry Henry up front, the real strength of the Red Bulls lies in the back, where goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul and rookie defender Tim Ream have held opponents to a conference-low 29 goals.
With a franchise-record 10 shutouts, Coundoul has created a huge improvement from the 47 goals the Red Bulls allowed last season.
Unless Columbus overtakes them, the Red Bulls will face the San Jose Earthquakes in first-round playoff action, a two-game, aggregate goals system in which the Red Bulls would play the second game at home on Nov. 4.
New England (14-9-6) at Red Bulls (9-15-5), Red Bull Arena, today, 7:30 p.m. ESPN2