At least the Fire won’t have long to dwell on their recent road woes. Days after extending their road winless streak to 29 matches, the Fire close out their three-match road trip with a visit to glorious New Jersey to take on the New York Red Bulls. The match begins at 6:30 p.m. and airs on Comcast Sports Network.
While Chicago has been a disappointment this season, at least the majority of fans recognized early on that this would be a rebuilding year under a new front office/manager. The same cannot be said for the New York Red Bulls, who have fallen flat on their face in the early going. The defending Supporter Shield winners are 3-7-1 in the early going, and coming off a poor showing in a 2-0 loss against blood rivals D.C. United - their first loss in our nation’s capital in nearly two years. The loss was so bad that team captain Dax McCarty felt compelled to apologize to supporters afterward.
One can look at the backline as a major source of the Red Bulls early struggles, as a patchwork defense has allowed 20 goals in just 11 league matches. The blame cannot go to goalkeeper Luis Robles, as he has been the gold handle on the swinging door that has seen new defensemen after defenseman try their best to stabilize the line.
The Red Bulls still have their big names in the midfield and on the attack, though their output has also contributed to the squad’s slow start. Bradley Wright-Phillips has only three goals in ten starts, and he’s the only forward to put any shots in net this season. On paper, the midfield of the Red Bulls should give the Fire night terrors as Mike Grella, Sascha Kljestan, McCarty, Felipe Martins and Loyd Sam tear apart the opposition with lethally precise passing and an eye for goal. The quintet have combined for 9 goals and 12 assists on the season.
The Fire’s backfield will likely be challenged all night by the Red Bulls, who have recorded 58 shots on goal in 11 matches, 38 more than the Fire have achieved in nine matches. Of those, only 13 have gone in goal, a 22 percent rate that ranks just above Seattle for worst in the league.
Perhaps the most important statistic though is the that the Red Bulls are 3-2-0 at home this season, winning the past two over Orlando and FC Dallas - the latter being NYRB’s lone shut out of the season. As has been repeated ad nauseum, the Fire haven’t won in their past 29 road matches, a streak that dates back to sometime in the William Mckinley presidential term (will need to double-check this math).
Betting Line and Predictions:
Betbrain.com has the probabilities as follows: A 64 percent change for a Red Bulls Fire win, the Fire with a 15 percent chance of a win, and a 21 percent chance for a draw.
One would like to think that the Fire could not come out any flatter, punchless or laughably incompetent as they did during Saturday’s match against the Revolution. Luckily, they’re catching a Red Bulls team that has been heading downward and Fire fans have have to hope the Red Bulls are overlooking tonight's match as they prepare for the Hudson River Derby this weekend against New York City FC. It would be stunning for RB HC Jesse Marsch to allow his team roll over a lesser opponent at home, but it may be the Fire best chance to claim some points.
However, the Fire still have the road streak strapped onto their backs like an irritating monkey that keeps flinging poo at inopportune times. Until the Fire prove they can play a full 90 minutes on the road, it’s tough to pick them. I’ll take the Red Bulls with a 3-1 victory.
What are your thoughts and predictions? Leave a comment below!