New York (9-5-5, 5-0-3 home) and Chicago (9-6-4, 3-4-2 road) face off in a pivotal match in the eastern conference tomorrow afternoon but there is more focus being placed on the weather than on the match. At the time of kickoff, 1pm eastern, temperatures will be reaching a high of 97 degrees. Conditions this past Sunday at a 4pm kickoff were 86 degrees but it felt around 100. Red Bull Arena’s roof was built to carry sound but unfortunately it also traps in the heat due to poor ventilation. Fans of MLS old will remember back in August 2003, Jimmy Conrad being stretchered off the field at the old Giant Stadium with heat stroke.
New York will be without the services of Jan Gunnar Solli, Heath Pearce, Ryan Meara, and Rafa Marquez. On top of that, head coach Hans Backe did not bring on fresh legs in the second half against Seattle on Sunday. Newly acquired keeper Bill Gaudette, who impressed in his first match with NY, will take his spot between the posts for the injured Meara. Thierry Henry will be available for the match but it is unknown if he will start. Henry said it is important for him to continue to get minutes considering the amount of time he was out due to his injury. The Red Bulls will have the service of everyone who played against Seattle and the only change I can see is Mehdi Ballouchy over Connor Lade.
Chicago comes into the match keeping their third clean sheet in four games. Even without the play of Marco Pappa and Sebastian Grazzini, Chicago’s midfield has become one of the strongest in MLS. With the return of Chris Rolfe and introduction of Alex, the Fire are more dangerous than ever and along with the speed of Dominic Oduro and the Red Bulls will have their hands full. Chicago will be without Arne Friedrich who is serving his one game suspension for being sent off at the weekend. The key matchup will be Dominic Oduro’s speed against the ailing Red Bulls backline. Holgersson will only be in his second game returning from his injured ankle while Wilman Conde has nary been the picture of perfect health. Conde had started on the bench against Seattle but was brought in to replace Rafa Marquez in the 21st minute. I would expect Oduro to test the Red Bull center back pairing early before the game drags on and the heat gets to everyone.
It will be interesting to see how Hans Backe treats this game. Out of the three games on this homestand, the match with the Fire is the most important for New York. With just a one-point difference, New York cannot afford to drop points on Wednesday. New York and Chicago play one more time later this season but it is in Toyota Park where the Red Bulls rarely find success. With the heat set to be a talking point, let’s hope the referees schedule water breaks throughout the match for the players’ sakes. As for me, I’ll be draping a scarf round my neck that was soaked in ice water.
(Image courtesy of newyorkredbulls.com)