The (road) show continues for Chicago Fire FC as they look to bounce back against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday following a difficult week in the Sunshine State.
The Fire will travel to Red Bull arena for a third and final meeting with Gerhard Struber’s boys, and the second time these two teams will have met in three weeks.
Here’s what we’re looking at as CFFC travels to the home of the best breakfast sandwiches known to mankind, New Jersey.
LAST TIME(S) OUT
Saturday’s match will almost be three weeks on the nose since the Fire produced a 2-1 win over the Red Bulls at Soldier Field.
Luka Stojanović decided to take the game over from the opening whistle, as he scored two goals within the first ten minutes.
The Fire would then have a golden opportunity to ice the game in the second half through Fabian Herbers, but he was denied by the crossbar after a chip over the on-rushing Carlos Coronel.
The Red Bulls would then turn up the heat and put the Fire under the gun for most of the second half. Head coach Raphael Wicky’s group didn’t make it easy on themselves at times, but they grinded out an impressive win against a Red Bulls team that simply doesn’t give up. Tom Barlow got one back for the visitors with the last kick of the game, but it was too little, too late.
Now, the Fire will have to turn around after an empty trip to Florida and try to take down this same Red Bulls side for the second time in less than a month. Beating any side in that rapid of succession is always difficult to do. With this being the third meeting this season, you can bet this will be more of a battle of will than tactics. Both teams know what to expect of each other and will be looking for all three points. It is also a rubber match of sorts, as both teams have taken all three points in the first two matches.
WHAT IT MEANS
Right now, it is safe to say both of these sides REALLY need three points.
For the Fire, you know the story. This will be the third of a six-game road trip, but the good news is that we are officially less than a month away from returning to Soldier Field on Sept. 22 against the New England Revolution. Right now, the Fire sit in 12th place in the Eastern Conference and are seven points off of D.C. United for a playoff position.
The Red Bulls are in a slightly more advantageous position. They are only five points off of D.C., but have two games in hand after their Saturday night match was postponed due to weather. The playing surface more resembled the Hudson River than a football pitch.
These two sides are desperate to make up ground after barren spells at different points in the season. For the Red Bulls, their most recent affair - a 1-0 win over Columbus - snapped a seven-match winless streak that included four losses.
The energy drink soccer finally kicked in against the Crew, as they found some magic through John Tolkin, who scored his first MLS goal, and goalkeeper Carlos Coronel, who stood on his head.
It’s going to be a battle in NJ. Both teams will be fresh, as the Fire will have had a week off and the Red Bulls even more so with their Hudson River Derby match postponed.
It’s going to be high-pressing, high-flying football from the Red Bulls and they’ll make the game ugly for large stretches.
The Fire will need to rely on the same things that got them three points last time against Gerhard’s group; taking advantage of set pieces, transition defense, and a burning desire to see the game out at any cost.
I’ll talk to you all around 5 p.m. CT on Saturday night from Red Bull Arena. Yes, I’ll have had a bacon, egg and cheese on an everything bagel with hot sauce on match day. See you then.