The New York Red Bulls (3-2-5) host the winless Chicago Fire (0-2-6) in a rematch of last seasons’ regular season finale. In that match, the Red Bulls went down early on an early goal by Mike Magee. However, the Red Bulls were marching towards destiny and came back to score 5 goals to down the Fire 5-2 and win the 2013 Supporter’s Shield. The loss sent the Fire below the red line and out of the playoffs as well.
Fast-forward to the 2014 season and the Red Bulls seem to be hitting their spring stride. NY is undefeated in their last four matches, having won three of those. The Red Bulls visited Frisco,Tx last Sunday and won a 1-0 contest against FC Dallas after Dallas went down to 10 men very early in the first half. The Chicago Fire have not won a match yet this season, having drawn six of their eight matches. Chicago had a lead last weekend against RSL into the 90th minute when RSL scored two stoppage time goals to win 3-2, handing the Fire their second loss of the season.
The New York Red Bulls seem to be getting to full strength as both Bobby Convey and Richard Eckersley have rejoined the first team in full training after recovering from injuries earlier in the season. That is big for Mike Petke, specifically over the next month, as both Roy Miller and Tim Cahill have been called into their countries preliminary World Cup camps. Miller and Cahill will join Costa Rica and Australia after this match so NY’s depth will start to definitely be tested.
For NY, one thing they will need to start doing is not giving up penalties and letting teams get back in the game that way. Luckily for the Red Bulls, Luis Robles has been one of the best keepers in the league. NY has given up a league leading six penalties and while Robles has only saved one (against FC Dallas), he has guessed right on the majority of them.
The Fire chalk their bad run of form up to poor defending and mental lapses and that is something the Red Bulls will need to take advantage of to continue their unbeaten run. Right now, Bradley Wright-Phillips has heated up, Thierry Henry is starting to thrive in his playmaker role, and the wing play of Eric Alexander and Lloyd Sam has kept the offense moving. On the flip side, the NY defense still gives up pockets of space around the 18-yard box and with the return of Quincy Amarikwa partnering with Mike Magee, the Red Bulls defense will need to tighten up.