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Whiplash: Chicago Fire vs New York Red Bulls, MLS Week 28 Preview

Watch your head as the Fire take a sudden jolt back towards the right direction

MLS: Chicago Fire at Montreal Impact Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

WOAH! What just happened? One moment we’re losing to the worst team in the league at home, the next we’re beating one of the hotter teams in the East on the road. I think you can say this is very unexpected and jarring. Or maybe not. Matt Polster is back and we have only received one loss with him on the pitch this season. Maybe he’s just the key to it all. Also back is Brandon Vincent, so that’s fun too.

Jesse Marsch’s Red Bulls are just doing the best they can. Hanging on to the 5th position in the East, they’re still in playoff territory, but can easily jump over the Crew with a win here. On the other hand, they seem to be dropping steadily. A loss in Portland and draws to NYCFC and a very vulnerable FC Dallas team, they don’t seem to have the edge to get past opponents. But we shouldn’t underestimate them, especially now that we’re trying to protect ourselves. Let’s check out some clips!

Vs. Portland 8/18

Vs. NYCFC 8/25

Vs. Dallas 9/2

Three Keys

Overloaded

There are only three reasons you play three in the back. First, you’re technically playing with five in the back, but they’re wingbacks. Second, you trust your centerbacks are that good. But I think the Red Bulls are at the third reason: they’re just too loaded up top to not use as many of their forward options as they can. And while someone can make the argument that Kemar Lawrence is an amazing defender, my point here is that this defense is not only lacking in numbers, but also in skill. The Fire need to make good use of that.

El Juego Feo

I forgot who was the original Chicago manager to use the term “winning ugly,” but the one that I do remember is Ozzie Guillen around the time of the 2005 World Series winning Chicago White Sox season. Up until the Gold Cup break, we were playing some very fluid soccer, which could be described by the classic term of “Juego Bonito”, which is basically (in my rough American tongue) just “playing pretty”. If you saw that game against Montreal, you saw a much different game. That was a ground out, ugly win. But it was a win, which is something we’ve been lacking recently. You don’t abandon things that work so easily and we should expect this same “Chicago Style” ugly winning.

Forget Me Niko

What this means is more troubles for Nemanja Nikolic. Niko has been struggling for the past couple of months alongside the team, but with this new set of tactics his effectiveness may drop even further. These “Ugly Wins” call for someone more like a poacher or someone who’s gonna be very opportunistic, like Basti or De Leuuw. I said earlier in the season before Niko’s big break that all he needed was service. Now it seems that service isn’t gonna be there anymore. Niko seems to be “classically trained” at a technical striker position, but we’re gonna be playing street ball from now on and a diploma from Juilliard doesn’t get you a lead role on Community!

Projected Lineups

Chicago Fire

New York Red Bulls

How To Watch

Kickoff: Saturday September 9th, 3:00PM CDT, at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, IL

TV/Streaming: Uni-Mas, MLS Live

So will the sudden momentum shift given to us by Polster be enough to put us back on course, or was that just another dead cat bounce? Tell us what you think in the comments.