Originally posted on Total MLS  |  Last updated 4/7/13
The New York Red Bulls (1-2-2) travel to the Windy City to take on the winless Chicago Fire (0-3-1). Toyota Park is one of two cursed venues for the Red Bulls who have never won in that stadium. New York’s last win in Chicago against the Fire came way back in May 2005 when the team was still the Metrostars. It has been an 11 game winless streak (with no wins in Toyota Park) for the team but it is the first trip for the likes of Tim Cahill, Juninho, and Peguy Luyindula. The Sleeping Giant With Chicago still looking for their first win of the MLS season, Mike Petke believes they are a “sleeping giant and very dangerous team to play”. The Red Bulls were in the same position last week against the Union that the Fire are currently in. The Fire are heading into their 5th game of the season, hosting a conference rival. The Union had never won in Red Bull Arena the same way the Red Bulls have yet to secure three points in Toyota Park. Wing Play The Fire are very battered in their midfield between the returning Logan Pause, Patrick Nyarko, Dilly Duka, and Alex. The Red Bulls strength in midfield lies centrally with the likes of Dax McCarty, Juninho, and Tim Cahill. For Chicago to maintain possession and relive the pressure NY is going to try and impose, they will have to be strong in the central midfield. Jeff Larentowicz will most likely partner with Dan Pallidni, pushing former Red Bull Joel Lindpere out wide. However, Lindpere does not toe the chalk, he didn’t do it in NY and I doubt he’ll do it for Chicago. Lindpere will most likely tuck in, which would benefit NY if Alexander would start out wide over Lloyd Sam on the defensive end. Alexander is more of a central midfielder than Lloyd Sam who is a traditional winger. Sam likes to push forward more and has not done a whole lot of defensive work in the midfield. Sam would be able to take Lindpere on one-on-one but would really need to use his speed as the Estonian is a workhorse who is not happy being beat. Sam’s play would only benefit if NY kept a high pressure for when he losses the ball. Having Alexander play over Sam would help on the defensive side of the ball but you do lose speed. NY has the advantage up the middle of the field so their wing play out of Sam, Alexander, and Steele will need to be superb to really work Chicago, especially if the Fire force the wing play. Stagnant Offense Chicago only has a single goal in their four matches. That lone goal came in a 4-1 loss to Chivas USA. The hold up play of Sherjill MacDonald worked wonders for Nyarko on his goal. While MacDonald is not known to be a finisher (outside of the brace he had in Red Bull Arena last October), the Red Bulls defense will need to make their presence on MacDonald felt. Olave and Holgersson need to make him feel uncomfortable whenever his back is to goal. The other key to shutting down Chicago’s attack is to take Chris Rolfe out of the match. While Rolfe’s 2013 is not matching his 2012 performance as of yet, he is a player capable of fueling the offense. Dax McCarty will have to stay at home a bit more to deal with Rolfe. Depending on how Petke’s red Bulls line up, this might be the match where we see how Juninho can do when it comes to the defensive side of the ball. If he lines up alongside McCarty, he will be asked to track some of Rolfe’s runs. With the way the results landed yesterday, both New York and Chicago can gain vital ground on the teams above them in the standings. (image courtesy of newyorkredbulls.com)
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