Yesterday, the Chicago Bears traded up in the first round of the NFL Draft to select Justin Fields with the 11th pick. After years of getting things wrong, the FO brain trust of Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace finally did something to galvanize a tired, fed-up fanbase, and today, there’s virtual dancing in the streets.
Why bring this up in a Fire blog, though?
Even at a glance, the similarities are apparent. This isn’t to say that Heitz and Wicky are as disastrous as Pace and Nagy have been, but the same feeling of apathy has permeated this franchise for just as long, if not longer than their lakefront housemates. But this move from the Bears has singlehandedly rejuvenated their fanbase and as a consequence, the city feels more alive— more joyful than it has in a long time. And as always when something good happens to another Chicago sports team, I have to wonder when it will be the Fire’s turn. When will this team get the shot in the arm it needs to thrive?
Who’s going to be our Justin Fields?
Chicago Fire all-time MLS record vs New York Red Bulls: 28W-13D-19L (20-0-1 in OT), 20 GF / 13 GA, 97 pts out of 180
Chicago Fire away MLS record vs New York Red Bulls: 12W-3D-14L (1-0-0 in OT), 44 GF / 48 GA, 39 pts out of 87
The first two games of the season have not been kind to a New York Red Bulls squad that is in a bit of limbo this season. They have a new coach and new system to integrate, and on the service have less talent than in past years as well. But don’t let that lure you into a false sense of security. They like to press high and will put the Fire defense in some awkward situations and Frankie Amaya looks to be settling in after a prolonged drama filled transfer saga.
The Fire injury report has everyone listed as out except for Collier, who is listed as questionable. This means that all of the Fire’s depth is in the training room instead of on the bench available for selection and the Fire once again are down to the starting XI and kids Wicky doesn't trust to give minutes. The one change I made is the wishful thinking of benching Calvo, because he’s clearly not working as captain of the defense. Maybe Pineda/Kap will be more vocal and consistent, but I doubt this will actually happen.
Keys To The Match
Play With Poise: The best thing about the Red Bulls season so far has been their high press, but it’s also been their Achilles Heel. They’ve given up 5 goals (just like the Fire) and they’ve all come at the cost of defensive breakdowns (also like the Fire). What this means is the Fire need to be the team that breaks down the least.
The Fire need to play calm, composed soccer. They have to control the game, on the road, which is a task in and of itself. And on top of that, they need to calmly break the press and score goals without giving up easy turnovers that will cost them the match.
Play Through The Midfield: The upside of all of this is that the Fire’s hyper-competent midfield should be putting on a showcase Saturday afternoon. Luka, Medran, and Gimenez should have an easy time of it going forward after breaking through the press, much like the Galaxy did last weekend. The passing skill should be able to dominate the middle of the park, and create scoring chances for the Fire forwards.
Score Multiple Goals: This one should be self-evident, but if the midfield is going to have a day like I think they’re going to have, we should be expecting the Fire to score twice at minimum. The Red Bulls are essentially at rock bottom on defense, and the men in red need to take advantage. Beric and Offor will have open looks, while Luka will find some space on the perimeter at some point, so all they have to do is complete their attacks.
How To Watch
Television: WGN-9. Live on Free Sports in the UK
Streaming: CFFC Live (in the Chicago TV market), ESPN+ (out of market)
Listen, the Red Bulls are chaos and are in a worse place than the Fire. This should be a clean W for the Fire, barring the usual MLS nonsense. 2-1 Fire.