At the start of this season, when the Tampa Bay Rowdies and New York Red Bulls met in the US Open Cup, the Tampa-based club had a great run, but their form began to dip.
Their last-16 tie against Philadelphia, and a win at home over Chicago United, put them back into the US Conference in the fourth round.
With no clear path forward, the club were left in the relegation zone.
With a big game against FC Dallas and a loss in the first leg of their first-leg playoff, they slipped to sixth.
“The most important thing is to get the team back in the top half,” said Tampa’s sporting director, John Gibbons, who will take over at the end of the season.
“That’s the main thing.
There’s only two teams that have to play in the league: New York and Tampa.
It’s our chance to play for the title.”
After losing to Dallas, the Rowdies will now face a crucial trip to face the Red Bulls.
“If we play well, we can get the points,” Gibbons added.
“But if we’re not there, we’re down to the second-tier.”