*I'm heading out the door to catch my flight back to Chicago so - unfortunately - I'm going to have to make this one quick. Let's get to it...*
The Fire and Red Bulls are one day away from opening up their 2010 seasons at Red Bull Arena. Though they finished at opposite ends of the Eastern Conference table in 2009, both teams underwent major changes this offseason and will be looking to start of 2010 on the right foot.
The match will be the first MLS game for new Fire Head Coach Carlos de los Cobos. It will also be de los Cobos's first chance to see his possession based attack in action in a meaningful match. It should be interesting to see how the Fire executes their new attack - which should be radically different from the direct style of offense employed by the Fire last year.
Continuing with the theme of firsts, tomorrow night's game will be the first match for Fire goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra. Dykstra, who has never played a MLS match, was named the first team goalie just last Saturday. A lot of eyes will be watching his every move tomorrow night and it's crucial that he is able to get block out the pressure, noise, and butterflies and have a good game in net. The Red Bulls will try to test him early, so Dykstra must bring his A-game from the opening whistle.
"He lacks a lot of experience," New York striker John Wolyniec said of Dykstra. "We're hoping to have a huge crowd, big atmosphere and hopefully that will make him more nervous and we can take advantage of that. "We'll be looking to put balls in the box, maybe take some shots from distance and definitely follow the shots up as best we can."
It will also be interesting to see how offseason acquisitions Collins John and Julio Martinez acquit themselves to what will likely be their first MLS starts. I'm particularly interested in seeing what John can do. We all know he has boatloads of talent, but what remains unknown is whether or not he'll be able to harness his skills and do some damage this year. He should be able to have a good game tomorrow against a relatively weak Red Bull back four.
But tomorrow night represents something bigger than any individual storyline for the Fire organization. It's the first game after a slew of offseason moves changed the identity of the club. Everyone's wondering if the moves will pay off and while tomorrow is only one game, it could go a long way towards setting the tone for the rest of the 2010 campaign.
On a lighter note, tomorrow is opening day. So get excited. Hope springs eternal right? Speaking of hope, here comes my first - and last - Fire Confidential prediction of 2010.
I can't pick the Fire to lose this one. I just can't. Not only is it my last prediction on this blog, but the Fire are also playing the Red Bulls. And, as we all know, the Fire don't lose to the Red Bulls. So, I'm going to go ahead and say the Fire will sneak out of Red Bull Arena with a 2-1 win. John and McBride with the goals for the Fire and Kandji with the tally for NYRB. Also, don't be too surprised if you see de los Cobos run out an unexpected lineup tomorrow night. My gut's telling me we'll see Krol at center back (relegating C.J. Brown to the bench) and (possibly??? Justin Mapp in the midfield. Again, this is just a hunch. We'll have to wait until tomorrow to find out for sure.
Feel free to make a prediction of your own in the comments section. As always, whoever comes closest gets a shout out on the blog. Enjoy the game and enjoy the opening weekend of MLS soccer. It should be fun.