The New York Red Bulls (0-1-1) once again head into the lion’s den known as Toyota Park and take on the eastern rivals, the Chicago Fire (0-1-1). The Red Bulls and Fire’s last meeting is a memorable one for fans on both sides as NY won 5-2 at Red Bull Arena back in October, winning the 2013 Supporter’s Shield. The victory also knocked Chicago just out of the playoffs for 2013. Both teams are still searching for their first MLS win in 2014. The Red Bulls, never having won at Toyota Park, have lost their last two meetings there 3-1.
Both teams will be digging into their depth as both teams have a player suspended for this match. Patrick Nyarko is suspended for this match after receiving two yellow cards last weekend. Either Benji Joya or Harrison Shipp will replace the speedy winger. Both players have filled into the midfield positively for the Fire and have contributed in the attack. Forward and league MVP Mike Magee seems ready to return to the fold for Chicago as well. Although Magee just missed out on the Golden Boot and the playoffs on the last day of the season last year, e was still voted MLS MVP for 2013. Coming into 2014, Magee has yet to play meaningful minutes for the Fire as he was a late addition to their preseason camp and has been nursing a hamstring injury. Fire head coach has kept Magee out of the lineup the last two weeks as to let the injury heal. It seems now the hamstring has healed and Magee is ready to get his 2014 campaign started. In his absence, Anongano and Quincy Amarikwa have played as lone strikers in a 4-1-4-1.
As for NY, central defender Armando was suspended one match by the Disciplinary Committee for a foul on Dillon Powers early in the first half last weekend. Ibrahim Sekagya will most likely slot alongside Jamison Olave, automatically making it three different backlines in three matches for Mike Petke. There could be some familiarity for Petke if he so chooses to go with a back four of Miller, Sekagya, Olave, and Kimura. If Magee truly is returning to Chicago’s starting lineup, it would be wise for Petke to go with familiarity over trying something completely new. However, Petke has already used Eckersley and Convey as fullbacks but he has not given any indication on whose starting spot it is to lose yet.
As for the Red Bulls attack, Petke still has a plethora of formations and lineups he can choose. Last season, Peguy Luyindula sliced open the Chicago Fire defense in claiming the Shield but that was at home. On the road, I believe Petke will stick with his two man central midfield pairing of Dax and Cahill for more defensive protection in front of the defense. The rest of the front six will likely be Sam, Wright-Philips, Henry, and either Steele or Convey. While the offense has shown flashes of what it could be, it truly needs to start going. Just like the Red Bulls back line, most of the Fire backline is still trying to gain an understanding of one another as well.
Last year’s 3-1 loss to the Fire at Toyota Park was an early turning point in the Red Bulls successful 2013 campaign. The Red Bulls would go 6-1-2, 20 out of a possible 25 points, including a four game win streak. Last year the Red Bulls went 0-2-2 before winning a match but I don’t think they have that sort of room for error this year with the Open Cup, World Cup, and CCL play all factoring in as the MLS season moves along. Breaking the curse of Toyota Park may finally get them moving in the right direction with the rest of the Eastern Conference.
(image courtesy of newyorkredbulls.com)