With the Fire playing New York Red Bulls three times over the last ten matches of the season playoff miracles don't seem likely. Martin Tomszak previews the first of those three encounters and I'm not sure if his prediction is tongue-in-cheek or just a statement regarding the unpredictability of MLS.
I think it's the latter.
What Are They All About? New York Red Bulls Preview
One minute. That’s all it took for the Fire to concede a goal against Colorado on Saturday, the same Colorado side that managed to score just twenty goals all season prior to their match up against the Fire. There was no response from the Fire as far as the score was concerned, though they did register twenty shots during the match (four on target). Having lost a match and tied a match against the only two other clubs in the league fighting for the title of “worst team”, the Fire will take on what looks to be a Supporters Shield contender as the New York Red Bulls head to Toyota Park on Wednesday. The Red Bulls bring with them a technical staff that boasts heavy ties to the Fire organization. Head Coach Jesse Marsch, Assistant Coach Dennis Hamlett, First Team Coach Chris Armas, and newly hired Strength and Conditioning Coach Tony Jouaux have all spent extensive time with the Fire in one capacity or another. There is room to add insult to injury when the Red Bulls visit on Wednesday and everyone expects them to bag three points with ease. The Fire have interestingly done well in situations where they aren’t supposed to and a shock could be on the cards.
NYRB Form Guide (Last Five League Matches): W-W-D-W-W
Previous match: A 3-0 win at home to TFC.
Formation: 4-2-3-1: Robles; Lade, Miazga, Ouimette, Wallace; McCarty, Felipe; Sam, Kljestan, Grella; Bradley Wright Phillips
Strengths: Honestly, where does one begin with the Red Bulls? After years of mediocrity they have strung together a few impressive seasons. This one may be the best of those. Initially even the most optimistic Red Bull supporters were skeptical at what Jesse Marsch could possibly bring to the team when he took the reins this season. He let the team’s performances speak for him and New York currently find themselves in second place in the East, a mere five points behind DC United who have played four more matches. More impressively they boast a 1.7 points per game average which is bested only by the Vancouver Whitecaps. Finally, they look good doing it… Some of the more entertaining matches of the season have come from NYRB and their ability to maneuver tactics and style of play according to necessity. Let’s take a look at the last five matches for examples.
Marsch and his team find themselves undefeated in five, with the only draw coming against Montreal away from home. In those five matches they have registered twenty-three shots on target, eleven of which have found the back of the net. That’s a scary stat for the Fire given that Frank Yallop has already noted the strangely high ratio of shots on target to goals allowed by Chicago. A team that finishes clinically is not a welcome sight at Toyota Park and if Bradley Wright Phillips has his shooting boots on not even heroics from Sean Johnson will stop him from adding to his season tally of eleven goals.
NY continues to dominate stats across the board in those matches with more possession, more completed passes, higher passing accuracy, more key passes in the final third, the list goes on. The only stat that they don’t win out on in every match is the fouls committed category. This team is well organized, and well disciplined. Marsch’s 4-2-3-1 ticks like a well-oiled machine and there is little need for silly fouls or rash challenges. NY boasts just one red card on the season, and aside from Damien Perrinelle’s excessive 9 yellow cards, most of the players are calm and collected. Look for them to come into Toyota Park with cool heads on their shoulders as they look for their first ever win at the stadium.
Style of Play, a Quick Note: Having alluded to a well-oiled machine earlier, examining a few highlights will allow us to see what the Fire can expect on Wednesday. In their previous match, the Red Bulls made a good Toronto FC side look a bit mediocre. The first half featured NY’s ability to build up play by utilizing Dax McCarty as a defensive anchor but also using his ability to link up creatively with his midfield partner Felipe, or spread it out wide to the wingers and overlapping fullbacks.
The initial thirty minutes of the match also showcased NY’s ability to break on the counter with Lloyd Sam, Sacha Kljestan, Mike Grella, and BWP and included a brilliantly worked goal that saw some needle and thread passing up the middle land at the feet of Phillips in the Toronto box. He doesn’t often miss from there, and NY were in the lead. The next goal came from a simple touch into space from Kljestan and an absolute rocket from defender Anthony Wallace to beat Joe Bendik. The nail in the coffin came in the last seconds of the match when Bendik deflected a BWP shot back into play before newly signed Argentine DP Gonzalo Veron slotted home. Up the middle, on the flank, long ball, crosses, through balls, 1-2’s, even their triangles have triangles, shots from distance, tap ins, you name it an NY has it in their locker and they’ll be looking to bring out all the tricks on Wednesday.
Weaknesses: It’s tough to write anything remotely relevant in this column given the weekend’s result. The only place to turn to find a legitimate weakness is the only match of the previous five that NY didn’t win, the draw against Le Impact. The strategy that Montreal implemented to get at least a point in that match had two facets.
First, from the outset they showed that they would not be afraid of NY in their own house. Romero, Oduro, and Duka pressed high and looked to utilize pace on top of Piatti’s precision from the very first whistle. Second, Montreal also realized that they could not get carried away in their ambition. They needed concentration, focus, and more importantly a compact midfield. Alexander and Mallace seldom venture forward on attacking forays and they did so even less in this encounter. They served as a barrier behind an impressive backline and NY was forced to take half of their twelve shots from well outside the box.
Chicago knows they have a tough stretch of away matches and they have yet to win on the road this season. If they want to slowly drag themselves from under the red line it must start with this match. If at all possible the guys on the field will need to rally around something and put together a cohesive 90 minute performance. Desperation is at hand.
Usually in this section we include players missing due to injury or suspension but this week the only notable starter that NY will have to do without is the suspended Perrinelle who the Fire would hope could actually start given he’s the only squad member to show hot headed-ness in defense.
Prediction: After predicting a win in the Open Cup Semi, a loss in the following match against Philly and a draw at home to Colorado, we’ve just been unlucky, by all means we should have done better, and it’s all a bit unfortunate but there’s still a good chunk of the season left so we’ll try again. Let’s say 3-0 Chicago.