Take The Bulls By The Horns: FIRE @ Red Bulls, MLS #9, Preview

Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Yallop promises changes against a pragmatic, experienced New York side just rounding into form

When: Saturday May 10th at 6PM

Where: Red Bull Arena, Harrison, New Jersey

Where to Watch: My50 Chicago, TWCSC Wisconsin, MLS Live

Hey, What Happened?

Do I really have to remind everyone of the epic collapse that the Fire conducted after having a two-goal lead for most of the match versus Real Salt Lake? I thought not.

Hey, What's Happening?

This week the men in red travel to beautiful Harrison, New Jersey to take on the Red Bulls. This game features in one corner, the Red Bulls, a team that turned a slow (0-2-4) start to the season around, and has now ground out a respectable 3-0-1 record over the last four matches. This has led them to a four-way tie atop the Eastern Conference after 10 games played. In the other corner sits the Fire with a 0-2-6 record, which puts them last in the Eastern Conference and at the bottom of the league-wide table in MLS.

# Club PTS GP PPG W L T GF GA GD HG HGD RG RGD
1 Seattle Sounders FC 22 10 2.2 7 2 1 22 14 8 11 4 11 4
2 Real Salt Lake 17 9 1.89 4 0 5 16 10 6 7 4 9 2
3 FC Dallas 16 10 1.6 5 4 1 19 17 2 12 3 7 -1
4 Colorado Rapids 15 9 1.67 4 2 3 10 9 1 5 2 5 -1
5 Sporting Kansas City 14 8 1.75 4 2 2 11 6 5 8 7 3 -2
6 Houston Dynamo 14 10 1.4 4 4 2 13 14 -1 8 3 5 -4
7 New England Revolution 14 9 1.56 4 3 2 9 10 -1 4 4 5 -5
8 New York Red Bulls 14 10 1.4 3 2 5 14 12 2 8 5 6 -3
9 Vancouver Whitecaps 13 9 1.44 3 2 4 15 12 3 12 4 3 -1
10 Columbus Crew 12 9 1.33 3 3 3 10 10 0 4 -1 6 1
11 D.C. United 11 8 1.38 3 3 2 12 11 1 9 3 3 -2
12 Toronto FC 9 7 1.29 3 4 0 7 9 -2 2 -1 5 -1
13 LA Galaxy 8 6 1.33 2 2 2 7 5 2 1 0 6 2
14 Portland Timbers 8 9 0.89 1 3 5 12 15 -3 10 1 2 -4
15 Philadelphia Union 8 10 0.8 1 4 5 10 13 -3 4 1 6 -4
16 San Jose Earthquakes 7 8 0.88 1 3 4 8 10 -2 6 0 2 -2
17 Montreal Impact 6 8 0.75 1 4 3 7 14 -7 4 -1 3 -6
18 Chivas USA 6 9 0.67 1 5 3 9 18 -9 6 -6 3 -3
19 Chicago Fire 6 8 0.75 0 2 6 12 14 -2 6 -1 6 -1
Hey, What Should Happen?

Expect changes for the CF97: Frank Yallop had said that there might be a couple changes in the lineup due to the performance of some players versus RSL. I would expect Gonzalo Segares and possibly Patrick Ianni to slide into the starting lineup for Cochrane and Soumare. Also, Quincy Amarikwa should be back in the starting XI sending Juan Luis Anangono back to the bench. Other than that, look for everyone else to keep their starting spots.

Red Bulls to stand pat, for good reason: For the Red Bulls look for them to name an unchanged squad from the one that beat FC Dallas 1-0 this past Sunday. This means that the attack will be spearheaded by Thierry Henry, Bradley Wright-Phillips, and Tim Cahill. Look for Dax McCarty to control the center of the park and be in constant battle with Benji Joya, if Joya starts. But two players that the Fire have to look out for are Lloyd Sam and Eric Alexander on the flanks. The Fire gave up two goals last week because of the lack of pressure on the outside, giving plenty of space to the RSL outside runners. If that happens again it could spell disaster and another Fire loss.

Fire must play all 90 minutes: The Fire have consistently been able to score goals this year, and they create more chances than most teams. If they continue to create chances and get shots on frame  I'm sure the offense will be fine - it's just that the defense has to step up and finish off the games. That has been the Achilles' heel of the 2014 Chicago Fire. Mental lapses, not enough pressure, and sometimes just giving up on plays have led to the Fire starting the season winless.

Tactical note - CF97 must handle overloads: New York's offensive focus is creating overloads while the ball is at Henry's feet. The players on the midfield wings - likely Patrick Nyarko and Harry Shipp - will have to be smart and communicate well when the Red Bulls push four or five runners into one side of the field. The balance between marking the man and marking space is difficult to maintain, which is why this simple tactic can work. On the other hand, good communication and awareness can turn the tactic into mere congestion, as well as inviting a quick counter-break against the grain.

Hey, What's Going to Happen?

The Fire travel to Red Bull Arena, a place that has seen them win only once it opened in 2010. This year, though, the Red Bulls seem like a different team - instead of relying heavily on their two DP's, they now rely on role players to make the ultimate difference. If the Fire can play at a similar level to the RSL game, they can control play through the midfield; New York . Barring another late collapse the Fire could possibly go in and steal 3 points.

Prediction: I'm going with a 2-0 Fire win because let's just see if me picking them will actually help. We are nearing the end of the 'early season;' the Fire can't afford to drop many more points if they want to stay close to the playoff pack. Right now, the Fire have at least one game in hand against four of the top five teams; even if results go their way, and they take advantage of the games in hand, they would still be sitting in sixth place.

We all know that soccer can be cruel at times and results won't go the way you need them to go. That is why Yallop and company need to make up ground, and New Jersey is a good place to start.

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