Preview: New York Red Bulls at Chicago Fire

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

BY MARK FISHKIN
Staff Writer

Was Saturday’s comeback win over New England the “turning point” that Mike Petke and his team labelled the result? 

It’s easy to say, but until the Red Bulls take the field against Chicago on Sunday, there’s no way to know for sure. 

Dax McCarty’s goal and his play over the final forty-five minutes last week surely gave New York fans hope that the key cog has returned to form.  New York will be handicapped at Toyota Park by suspensions to Olave and Miazga, pushing Armando back into the starting lineup. Chicago has been a mess this season, but has a win and a draw against the Red Bulls this year.

Match Information:
Sunday, August 10th at Toyota Park, 8:00p ET kickoff, TV: MSG and Univision Deportes

Referee: Ted Unkel

Record, GF/GA, Division and League Position, Recent Form:
Chicago, 22 points from 21 matches, 28GF/34GA, t8th in the East, t17th in MLS, WDLDD
New York, 28 points from 22 matches, 35GF/33GA, 4th in the East, 10th in MLS, WLDDW

Chicago’s front line vs. the Red Bulls defense:

Mike Magee and Quincy Amarikwa vs. Roy Miller, Armando, Ibrahim Sekagya, and Chris Duvall (and Luis Robles).
Magee scored his first goal in six matches last week on a penalty kick in his club’s 1-1 home draw against Columbus. This season, the 2013 MLS MVP has reverted back to human form, with only six goals in the current campaign; a far cry and far off pace from the 15 he collected last season. Defenses are surely focusing on the former Red Bull, but Magee has only placed 14 shots on frame this season in fifteen matches for the Fire, and output like that won’t get the job done. Like Magee, Amarikwa has six goals on the year, but that’s a career high for the MLS journeyman. However, the Bakersfield native has put only a single ball in the net in his last ten appearances. Can New York survive the return of Armando to the starting lineup for the first time since early June?  Of course, with Olave and Miazga both suspended, and new signing Perrinelle just receiving clearance on his paperwork, Petke has no choice but to start the Spaniard.  Chicago will attack right at him, so Armando better be prepared. The Red Bulls have gone seven matches without a shutout win. Armando went the full ninety in that win at New England.
Advantage: Chicago

New York’s attackers vs. the Fire defense:

Thierry Henry and Bradley Wright-Phillips vs. Lovel Palmer, Patrick Ianni, Jeff Larentowicz, and Gonzalo Segares (and Sean Johnson).
It’s Henry and BWP’s world, and we’re just living in it. After the dynamic duo were superlative in this week’s MLS All-Star Game, here’s to hoping that New York’s scoring threats continue their fantastic form. New York’s last seven league matches have featured a goal by either Wright-Phillips or Henry.  The Fire have allowed seven goals in the club’s last five league matches, though one match was a 5-1 drubbing at San Jose, and two of those matches were shutouts by Chicago. Sean Johnson’s 1.62 goals-against average should give New York hope that they can put balls past him. Palmer moved to Chicago after hitting the bar in last season’s MLS Cup Final penalty shootout with RSL. Ianni has been used sparingly by the Fire (8 apps/7 starts) but has gone the full ninety in Chicago’s last two matches. Larentowicz scored in the two clubs’ first match this season, a 1-1 draw on March 23rd.  Segares is in his 10th season in Chicago, and is sixth in all-time appearances for the Fire (253) behind Jesse Marsch, Zach Thornton, Chris Arms, C.J. Brown, and Logan Pause.
Slight Advantage: New York

The Midfields:

Ambroise Oyongo, Dax McCarty, Tim Cahill, and Lloyd Sam vs. Grant Ward, Matt Watson, Chris Ritter, and Alex. 
Has Dax McCarty found his form?  New York fans were buoyed by the second-half play and goal by the Red Bulls’ defensive midfielder.  Of course, Tim Cahill has to find his way back into the offense for New York to truly click.  The Aussie was removed in last week’s win over New England due to groin tightness, but did play the first half of the All-Star Game and looked fine.  Oyongo continues to improve every match, and Sam is cruising along.  Alexander was terrific coming off the bench last week, and Luyindula could have put the match away in the 85th minute, but his ball went off the post.  Chicago’s midfield is a work in progress, with nineteen year-old Grant Ward, on loan from Tottenham, on the right. Ward has a single goal in eleven appearances this year. Fellow Englishman Watson has one assist in fifteen caps with the Fire. Rookie Chris Ritter out of Northwest hasn’t made the score sheet yet. The Brazilian Alex played the entire 1-1 draw between the teams in March, but missed the 5-4 goalfest at Red Bull Arena. Harrison Shipp, who scored half of his six Fire goals in the 5-4 win at New York on May 10th, should come off the bench.    
Advantage: New York

The Coaches:
Chicago’s Frank Yallop has done it all in MLS, but his inability to get wins this season is baffling. The Fire have been hit with injures, but a single win in eleven matches would put less experienced coaches on the hot seat.  Yallop has yet to have spent a year with the Fire. Petke took the credit for his team’s victory last week after reading the riot act after another listless first half.  Now the team has to take his passion, internalize it, and play with it. 
Advantage: Even

Intangibles:

New York is 3-1-5 in league matches since May 24th. Chicago is 1-3-7 since May 18th. The Red Bulls haven’t been shut out in eleven MLS matches. New York hasn’t won in Chicago since 2005, and have gone 0-8-5 (including that awful Open Cup match in 2011) during that stretch.  BWP and Henry each have 3 goals against Chicago, leading all active Red Bulls. Guevara and Angel each had five against the Fire. The forecast calls for mostly sunny skies on Sunday, with a high temperature of 82. The Fire are averaging just over 15 thousand fans at Toyota Park per match.
Advantage: Chicago

Prediction:

The Red Bulls have already vanquished two longtime demons this season; the winless streak at New England, and the pointless and goalless streak in Salt Lake.  Will Sunday night complete the trifecta at Toyota Park? If New York can play with the same drive they did in the first 20 minutes at Salt Lake and the last 45 minutes against New England, one would think they can get the job done.  However, until New York can show it can start and finish matches with the skill that equals its talent, I think we’re looking at a 2-2 draw