It's no secret. The Fire are in desperate need of a win.
On Sunday they'll get a chance to notch that first victory of the season against a club that has also seen their share of injury and underperformance this season. The New York Red Bulls come to Toyota Park with a record of 1-2-2 after picking up their first win of the year last weekend against Philadelphia. Neither side may be able to field their first choice starting eleven however with several of the best players on both rosters listed as questionable for the match.
The Fire initially targeted Arne Friedrich's return to the line-up for this game and he has resumed full training but the German defender has yet to regain complete fitness and isn't likely to see action in this one. It's more realistic that Friedrich will make his 2013 debut next weekend in Houston. It's also questionable whether or not Patrick Nyarko or Dilly Duka will be available since both are dealing with hamstring issues that have kept them out of training. In good injury news, Logan Pause now appears to be at 100% and will be available for selection. Steven Kinney and Mike Videira are no longer on the injured list so Frank Klopas now has a full compliment of options at right back.
New York has some concerns in their eleven as well. The forward corps has been thinned with injuries to Thierry Henry and Fabian Espindola. Henry did come in as a substitute and looked fantastic in scoring the winning goal against the Union last Saturday. It's possible that he's utilized in that same role again this weekend. Peguy Luyindula will presumably start with Tim Cahill pushed up higher if Henry and Espindola aren't at Mike Petke's disposal to begin the match.
New York is relatively weak at the outside mid positions but the Fire won't have the guns to put them to the test without Nyarko and Duka available. Rookie Yazid Atouba may get a crack if Klopas feels he needs to get more offensive production from his outside midfielders in Nyarko's absence but it seems he will opt for a more conservative formation with his best defender not yet ready for game action. The Fire will likely focus on staying compact and tight defensively particularly if Henry is in the starting line-up.
With Pause back, Klopas could also choose to play him in a center midfield spot next to Jeff Larentowicz thereby pushing Joel Lindpere outside but that may prove to be too limiting offensively. Without Nyarko, Chris Rolfe could also move outside like he was two weeks ago against Chivas but his best position is as an underneath forward. The Fire need their best sniper closer to goal and moving Rolfe back outside leaves the center of the pitch fairly devoid of creativity without Alex available due to injury.
FIRE: OUT - none; QUESTIONABLE - Patrick Nyarko (R hamstring), Dilly Duka (R hamstring), Alex (R calf contusion)
RED BULLS: OUT - Connor Lade (heel), Ryan Meara (hip surgery); QUESTIONABLE -
Projected Line Ups
FIRE: Sean Johnson; Gonzalo Segares, Jalil Anibaba, Austin Berry, Logan Pause; Joel Lindpere, Jeff Larentowicz, Daniel Paladini, Wells Thompson; Chris Rolfe, Sherjill MacDonald
RED BULLS: Luis Robles; Heath Pearce, Markus Holgersson, Jamison Olave, Brandon Barklage; Jonny Steele, Dax McCarty, Juninho, Eric Alexander; Tim Cahill, Thierry Henry
The Red Bulls have never won at Toyota Park (0-6-3) and the Fire beat them two out of three times last season. They're a club that the Fire, for whatever reason have seen success against over the last few seasons despite New York's big spending on marquee players. Having Sean Johnson back for this match is a big plus as New York will be dangerous if Henry and Cahill lead the attack. Petke could also choose to start Juninho at one of the center midfield spots if he's looking for more of a distributor against a Chicago defense that has fallen asleep at times on set pieces.
This match may not be pretty to watch with both coaches dealing with patchwork line-ups and injury recovery. A victory here is needed with a difficult road match at Houston next weekend.
Fire 1 Red Bulls 1
The rest of the league
DC United 0 Sporting KC 2
FC Dallas 1 Toronto FC 1
Philadelphia 0 Columbus 1
Real Salt Lake 2 Colorado 1
Houston 1 Portland 2
Vancouver 1 San Jose 2
Season Record 20/42