In many seasons in Major League Soccer, the road can be unkind to a lot of clubs. Few are able to truly navigate it to a point of a winning record - while most end up going away from home in hopes of just getting the old "road point."
The 2011 edition of the New York Red Bulls are true to that old road point adage as they saw 10 draws away from Red Bull Arena this season - going 2-5-10 overall.
One of their lone wins away from home happened to come against the one club they play against in the wild card round, FC Dallas.
Hans Backe's club cannot rely on the road point in this match however, as the wild card round is a winner take all. Instead his club will have to do exactly what they did last month when they were in Frisco - defend like crazy and hope for a few lucky breaks.
The Red Bulls scored a big 1-0 win against Dallas at Pizza Hut Park in early September to end a big rut that they were in that went all the way back to early July. Dallas was in the middle of their CONCACAF Champions League groups stage run that saw them go from Dallas, to Toronto, to Mexico and to Dallas again in a short amount of time. Dallas was gassed for the game and New York took full advantage of it.
The Red Bulls scored off a flukey Luke Rodgers goal late in the first half and really never looked back.
The difference was in defense as Rafa Marquez was out on suspension, which meant Backe had to go with Tim Ream and Stephen Keel in the middle of the defense. That partnership was more than enough to slow down speed of guys like Jackson Goncalves and Fabian Castillo - while striker Maicon Santos seemed to find new ways to hit the crossbar.
Back when the two clubs squared off in New Jersey in late July - it was Chavez who picked up two big goals for the Hoops on the road. But Dallas couldn't put New York away on that day either as Thierry Henry nailed an amazing goal late in the game to seal a 2-2 draw for the Red Bulls.
This was the matchup the Red Bulls wants - to play FC Dallas - even on the road. To go into this game without Rodgers won't be easy either. New York is 0-3-7 without Rodgers this season since he became available to play (the club did when the season opener without him).
It will come down to freshness and confidence. The Red Bulls have looked fresher in recent weeks - while FC Dallas has continue to be an up and down case. The Red Bulls have lost once in their last five games (to Sporting Kansas City) while Dallas has only two wins in their last five.
Dallas will be fresh with Shea, Chavez, Zach Loyd, Ugo Ihemelu and Kevin Hartman all sitting out last Saturday's loss to the San Jose Earthquakes. New York on the other hand had to push to get into the playoffs on the final day with a win over Philadelphia.
The road is tricky for New York but if this is the team that everyone thought they'd be at the start of the 2011 season, maybe this is just the jump start that they need to a MLS Cup run.