Preview: New York Red Bulls at Chicago Fire

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by MARK FISHKIN

With the emotion of the Hudson Derby behind them, the Red Bulls turn their attention to the home stretch of the MLS season.

With 12 matches to cement the club’s twelfth playoff berth in thirteen seasons (and a four-match detour in CCL play), New York has shown that they once again should be considered one of the league’s top teams.  Sunday night the Red Bulls visit Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois to take on the league’s worst team. Matches like this week’s have often proven to be trap games for New York.

Can the players keep their intensity level up to beat the Fire for the fourth straight time?


Match Information

Sunday, July 31st at Toyota Park, 7p kickoff.
TV/Streaming: MSG/MSG Go (Optimum and xfinity subscribers)
Red Bulls Radio: TuneIn App and www.newyorkredbulls.com/matchday/radio
Referee: Fotis Bazakos

Record: GF/GA, Division & League Position, Current League Form

Chicago: 17 points from 19 gms, 17GF/25GA, 10th in the East, 20th in MLS, WLWLL

New York: 31 points from 22 gms, 36GF/28GA, 2nd in the East, t-5th in MLS, LDWDW


Projected Lineups

Chicago

CHIvNY

New York

NYvCHI


The Fire attack vs. the New York defense

Michael de Leeuw vs. Connor Lade, Aurelien Collin Damien Perrinelle, Sal Zizzo, and Luis Robles

de Leeuw (1G) joined the Fire this May from FC Groningen of the Dutch league. His lone Chicago goal was the only tally in a home win against SKC on July 13th. The Red Bulls back line has conceded only first-half goal over the last four matches. Connor Lade completely negated Jack Harrison last week at Red Bull Arena, though Kemar Lawrence has returned to training. Collin hasn’t been given a yellow card in three matches, and Ronald Zubar’s yellow against City was the Frenchman’s first in seven appearances.  Perrinelle may get the start in Bridgeview. Zizzo for the most part managed Tommy McNamara, save for the City winger’s highlight reel goal last week. Luis Robles and his wife welcomed a baby daughter to the world this week.

Advantage: New York


The Red Bulls offense vs. the Chicago back line

Bradley Wright-Phillips vs. Brandon Vincent, Joao Meira, Jonathan Campbell, Johan Kapplehof, and Sean Johnson.

Bradley Wright-Phillps (11G/2A) is tied for third in the league is scoring after his brace against City. Amazingly, BWP’s goals have come in only six of New York’s 22 league matches. Rookie Brandon Vincent (1A) played on Stanford’s NCAA Championship team last year with Seattle’s Jordan Morris. He earned his first USMNT camp against Canada this January. Meira (1A) joined the Fire this offseason. He has played in Portugal’s lower leagues for most of his career. Campbell (1G) is a first round draft pick who was a four-year starter at North Carolina. Johan Kappelhof makes four of four first-year back line players for Chicago. An Ajax youth academy product, he, like de Leeuw, joined the fire from FC Groningen. Sean Johnson is in his seventh season in Bridgeview, and has conceded only ten goals in nine appearances this season after coming back from a wrist injury.

Slight Advantage: New York


The Midfields

David Accam, Khaly Thiam, John Goosens, Matt Polster, and Kennedy Igboananike vs. Mike Grella, Dax McCarty, Sacha Kljestan, Felipe, and Alex Muyl

If history shows, Chicago will bunker and look to hit New York on the counter with speedsters Accam (4G/2A) and Igboananike (4G/1A). Accam has a goal and an assist in four career matches versus New York. Igboananike has two goals over those same contests. Thiam (1G) is a Senegalese defensive midfielder who is on loan from MTK Budapest. Goosens (1G/2A) is the third Dutch starter on the Fire, with time at Ajax’ youth academy and at Feyenoord. Young American Polster was the Fire’s top draft pick a year ago.  New York’s midfield tatooed City last week in Harrison. Though Sunday wasn’t his best performance, Grella constantly drew attention from multiple defenders. Both McCarty and Felipe showed their customary grit. Sacha Kljestan was nothing short of masterful, with a goal and two assists. The MLS Assist leader played 41 minutes in the All-Star Game on Thursday night in San Jose. Alex Muyl was named to the MLS Team Of The Week for his impressive two-way play. The rookie was denied an assist on BWP’s second goal, and was phenomenal tracking back and blunting City attacks before they started.

Advantage: New York


The Coaches

Veljko Paunovic is suffering through his first year in a reclamation project that will take multiple seasons. With so many first-year players, 2016 is all about getting his charges comfortable with each other and his playing style. That his club has won two of their last five matches is a start. Jesse Marsch trolled the officials during the week, trolled Patrick Vieira on match day, and walked away four-one winners Sunday in Harrison. Can New York’s coach keep his team’s emotions up on the road with the CCL looming?

Advantage: New York


Intangibles

New York has won three straight matches over the Fire for the first time since 2006-07. The Red Bulls’ win on the season’s final day was New York’s first ever in Toyota Park and first win away to Chicago since 2005. Chicago has recorded all four of their 2016 victories at Toyota Park. Mike Grella had the only goal in the club’s first meeting this season at Red Bull Arena on May 18th. Sunday marks the clubs’ final match this season.  Bradley Wright-Phillips is now tied with Juan Pablo Angel for all-time, all-competitions goals for New York with 62. He trails JPA by two goals in the league (56 v 58). BWP’s five all-time goals against the Fire is tied for the most in club history with Angel and Amado Guevara. Sunday’s forecast is for clear skies and eighties degrees at kickoff. Chicago is drawing an average of 14,500 fans to Bridgeview this year, next-to-last in the league.

Advantage: Even


Prediction

New York must suffer a bit of a let-down after such an emotional derby win last weekend. Chicago will throw their typical strategy at New York, and will find success on the counter. Sunday will be a goal-fest, with the Fire taking an early lead, but the Red Bulls will persevere in a 3-2 win that just may have them on top of the East by the final whistle.