On the heels of an idle weekend, the Fire return to action and wrap up a three-match homestand with a visit from the reigning Supporters' Shield-winning New York Red Bulls on Saturday at SeatGeek Stadium (12 PM CT, ESPN+). With the Fire taking the pitch in search of their first win of the season, take a look at some of the names and trends set to shape Saturday's fixture with the Match Storylines presented by NovaCare:
The Red Bulls enter Saturday’s contest having surrendered three points at home to Orlando City SC in their most recent outing last weekend. Former Red Bull Sacha Kljestan scored the match-winner in the 73rd minute to haunt his one-time club and grab a road win for the Lions. Red Bulls head coach and Chicago Fire great Chris Armas has his side off to a 1-1-1 start in 2019, currently residing in seventh place in the early Eastern Conference standings.
The Fire, meanwhile, will be aiming to build off an encouraging final hour in the March 16th loss to Seattle Sounders FC and secure three points ahead of an April schedule that sees them play three of five matches away from home. Although recently signed attacking midfielder Nicolás Gaitán was introduced at his new home venue on Thursday, it remains to be seen whether he'll be included in the squad to face the Red Bulls come Saturday.
The Fire sent multiple players overseas during last weekend’s international break, as Przemysław Frankowski (Poland) and Djordje Mihailović (United States Under-23s) jetted abroad to join up with their respective national teams. Frankowski and Poland got off to a 2-0-0 start to 2020 UEFA Euro qualifying with wins over Austria and Latvia, with Frankowski appearing as a second half substitution in both matches. Mihailović started both matches for the U.S. U-23s during a training camp in Spain, and had active shifts in a loss against Egypt and a draw against the Netherlands.
The Red Bulls, on the other hand, see the return of five players this week, as Aaron Long (USA), Kaku (Paraguay) Michael Amir Murillo (Panama), Allen Yanes (Guatemala), and Kemar Lawrence (Jamaica) were all called into international duty over the last week.
As has been the case in recent years, there's no shortage of connections between Saturday's opponents at SeatGeek Stadium. Starting on the Red Bulls touchline, Armas spent 10 seasons with the Fire as a player (1998-2007), and helped the Club win the 1998 MLS Cup, the 1998, 2000, 2003 and 2006 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cups, as well as the 2003 Supporters’ Shield. He was inducted into the Ring of Fire on Oct. 22, 2009, after appearing 214 times for the Men in Red. Joining him on the technical staff in Harrison is Denis Hamlett -- now the Red Bulls sporting director and the one-time head coach of the Fire -- and assistant coach C.J. Brown, the Fire's all-time leader in regular season appearances (296) after playing in Chicago from 1998-2010.
On the flip side, Fire captain Dax McCarty played with the Red Bulls for six seasons (2011-16), and captained the side from 2015-16. McCarty made 169 for RBNY, helping the Club win the MLS Supporters’ Shield on two occasions (2013, 2015).
Fellow Fire midfielder Amando Moreno originally began his professional career as a Homegrown player for the New York Red Bulls in 2013, signing his first professional contract after progressing through the club’s Academy system. He was acquired by the Fire from the Red Bulls in exchange for the No. 32 overall pick in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft on Jan. 11.
Saturday’s match will mark the 58th meeting between the Fire and the Red Bulls in regular season play. Since entering the league in 1998, the Fire have posted a 27-18-12 regular season record against the Red Bulls, which ranks as the club’s best regular season record and highest point total (93 points) against a single team. Additionally, the Fire are 15-5-9 while facing the Red Bulls at home in league play. Last season, each team claimed a win on the other's home pitch, with Chicago dealing New York a rare home loss in April before the Red Bulls returned the favor with a 1-0 win in Bridgeview on August 11.