The New York Red Bulls don’t have much time to rediscover their offense.
The Red Bulls were blanked in the series opener and are facing elimination when they entertain top-seeded FC Cincinnati on Saturday night at Harrison, N.J.
Cincinnati prevailed 3-0 on Sunday in the first match of the best-of-three series and will be looking to clinch an Eastern Conference semifinal berth.
No. 8 seed New York had a 16-9 edge in shots in Game 1 but couldn’t deliver past Cincinnati goalkeeper Roman Celentano, who made five saves.
The failure to score came after the Red Bulls tallied 16 times in their final six regular-season matches. New York twice scored five goals during that span.
“Everyone is optimistic in the locker room,” Red Bulls coach Troy Lesesne said. “We have to win two matches to be able to (advance). Nothing changes, really, other than Cincinnati has a little bit more of an advantage.”
Alvaro Barreal scored two goals and Luciano Acosta had the other for FC Cincinnati. Acosta scored 17 goals in the regular season and has enjoyed a banner campaign.
Barreal scored goals in the 23rd and 89th minutes. Acosta’s goal came on a long shot in the 35th minute.
Cincinnati was just 3-2-3 down the stretch — including a 2-1 home loss to the Red Bulls on Oct. 4 — but was on its game in the playoff opener.
“I’m not surprised, but I will say over the past month, we haven’t been our strongest,” Cincinnati coach Pat Noonan said. “Maybe it was what was at stake and the start of the playoffs, but they stepped up. They knew the challenges that were in front of them, and I thought they managed the game in a pretty strong way.”
Cincinnati only took nine shots but all three on target found the back of the net. Now Cincinnati has two chances to end the Red Bulls’ season.
“We know what’s on the line,” New York rookie Peter Stroud said. “It’s a World Cup Final for us on Saturday, but we’ve been in these kinds of situations before. I feel like the whole back half of the season it was either win or go home. I think the boys showed they can handle it. It’s about demonstrating that again when the time comes on Saturday.”
If the Red Bulls win, Game 3 will be held at Cincinnati on Nov. 11.