MLS Preview: Red Bulls, Sporting aim to end ruts
Mike Petke has witnessed his Red Bulls side slip to three straight defeats in the Eastern Conference, the latest of which came in a shock 2-1 loss at home to Western Conference strugglers Portland Timbers on Saturday.
That followed the exhilarating 5-4 defeat to Chicago Fire and the 2-0 setback at Toronto, and leaves the Red Bulls sitting outside the play-off spots in sixth.
Reflecting on the Timbers reverse, Petke believes his side are playing well and that the current rough patch may be a mental problem.
"I've been in this league long enough and I've been through a hell of a lot longer and worse spells than we are in right now," he said.
"I think we have confident players, but perhaps it is a mental thing, perhaps it is a little bit a lack of confidence. I don't have that answer. I could try and find that answer as a coach, but I'm not in their head."
Striker Bradley Wright-Phillips could be crucial to the Red Bulls' hopes of emerging from Sporting Park with three points this week.
The former Manchester City striker bagged his 10th goal of the campaign against the Timbers, and is now the joint highest scorer in the MLS alongside Sporting striker Dominic Dwyer.
Sporting sit second in the Eastern Conference, but just four points separate them from the Red Bulls.
Peter Vermes' side have failed to win their last three matches, and were dealt a blow with the news that full-back Chance Myers will miss the rest of the campaign with a ruptured Achilles.
Elsewhere, the Timbers will look to build on their win over the Red Bulls as they once more hit the road to take on fellow strugglers Chivas USA.
Chivas currently prop up the Western Conference standings and, like the Timbers, have just two victories to their name this season.
However, Wilmer Cabrera's men have shown improvement in the last two fixtures, as a 3-1 victory at Colorado Rapids was followed by a 1-1 draw at Dallas.