(Photo credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
Playoff contenders D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls will both try to shake off disappointing midweek draws when they meet on Saturday night in Washington.
D.C. enters the weekend precariously holding onto the ninth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference after a 1-1 draw at home Wednesday night against Atlanta United.
Gabriel Pirani scored his first goal for D.C. (9-12-9, 36 points) since his summer arrival, but for coach Wayne Rooney it was a frustratingly familiar theme of not converting chances. His team outshot Atlanta 19-6 and also had more quality chances, but was forced to settle for a third consecutive draw.
"We're creating chances but we have to be more clinical," said Rooney, who a decade ago was one of the world's best goal-scorers with Manchester United and the England national team. "I've been saying this all season, and sometimes as a coach, you want to be on there yourself with the chances we're getting."
D.C. is running out of time to correct the problem, with only four matches remaining. Four of the five teams closest to them beneath the playoff line have at least one more match to play.
That includes the Red Bulls (7-12-10, 31 points), who are coming off their own wasteful performance in a 1-1 draw at home Wednesday night against Austin FC.
After going in front via an own goal, RBNY dominated most of the first half only to concede on Austin's first shot of the game from Sebastian Driussi.
"You could chalk it up to being unlucky, but we're not going to do that here," coach Troy Lesense said postgame. "We had chances to go up 2-nil, 3-nil, and didn't take them. And then we don't defend well."
That extended a winless run to five matches for the Red Bulls, who also lost striker Dante Vanzir in the 18th minute. He's now set to miss the remainder of the regular season with a back injury.
D.C. could also continue to be short-handed in defense after first-choice center back pairing Derrick Williams and Steve Birnbaum missed the Black and Red's last two matches.
The Red Bulls' last league win came at home against D.C. United, 1-0 on Aug. 20.
--Field Level Media