The Chicago Fire will put their stingy defense to the test on Sunday, when the New York Red Bulls bring their league-leading offense to Toyota Park (2 pm CT, ESPN).
Chicago’s defense has been excellent lately, conceding just one goal in their last five games. But they haven’t yet seen an offense like New York’s, who top MLS with 26 goals scored.
“This is [the biggest] challenge that we’ve faced in the last five games,” Fire defender Cory Gibbs told MLSsoccer.com Friday. “With all of the threats that they have, all of the pace that they have and the technique that they have it’ll be a big challenge for us.”
The Red Bulls will attack the Fire defense from all angles. Midfielder Joel Lindpere will be looking to link up with fellow attackers Dwayne De Rosario, Dane Richards and, of course, Thierry Henry, who will likely return to action Sunday after serving a one-game red card suspension in Thursday night’s 4-2 loss at Seattle.
Chicago will be particularly keyed-in on the in-form Henry, who has two goals and an assist in his last two matches.
“It’s just about containing him and just trying to hold back as many of his strengths as possible,” Gibbs said. “We can’t give him a lot of time on the ball. We’ll try and let him play simple and just watch his runs.”
Though they’ll certainly be paying a lot of attention to Henry and his fellow attackers, Chicago won’t make big changes to their defensive tactics for Sunday’s match. They’ll still try to stay compact and be in a good position to keep the ball once they win it back.
“With every game it’s important as a group to make it hard for the opposing team,” Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas said Friday. “[We have to] stay compact and then just be in a position, when we do win it, to have opportunities to attack.”
“They do have a lot of quality players,” Klopas added. “But we just have to keep doing the same things we’ve been doing; staying organized, staying focused and making sure for 90 minutes that we’re alert.”
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.