The Chicago Fire have 13 games left in the 2021 season. They are 7 points off a playoff spot in 12th. In almost every league, American sport or otherwise, they’d be ruled as out of a spot. However, this is MLS. A win over the Red Bulls would leapfrog the Fire over them into the standings and if Philadelphia can beat DC and TFC can beat Montreal, the Fire are very much still in the playoff conversation.
Conventional wisdom says the Fire should be turning their attention to next season, concentrating on players they know are going to be there and auditioning them for their future roles. They should be getting guys like Brian Gutierrez and Stanislav Ivanov some minutes in competitive fixtures. Without the Open Cup, they have to make a choice when to do that, and you’d think that that time is now. But the playoff math is absolute. The Fire can make a run, and they’re damn sure going to try.
Chicago Fire away MLS record vs New York Red Bulls: 12W-3D-15L (1-0-0 in OT), 44 GF / 50 GA, 39 pts out of 90
The Red Bulls finally recovered after their loss to the Fire two weeks ago with a win against the Crew. In between, they lost a second in a row against Montreal. Overall, the Red Bulls are just two points ahead of the Fire in the standings
Ignacio Aliseda is still out with a shin injury, so that means Herbers is still penciled in as the third central midfielder. Meanwhile, Luka needs to be played as the second striker, as he’s emerged as the real scoring threat of the squad. This gives Medrán space to slide back into the lineup as well.
As for the defense, They’re just better when Jonathan Bornstein is out there to be a vocal leader on the field. That and his smarts will be really in need against New York, so JB gets the start on the left. As for the right, as decent as Jhon Espinoza has been when he’s played, Boris Sekulic has just been better in my estimation. He’s better going forward, and while there are times where he gets beat, he’s good enough on set pieces and in one on one situations to not be a liability against a team that presses high.
Keys To The Match
Think Quickly: The one thing that NYRB are really good at is pressing. They’re an incredibly athletic team that are dogged in their pursuit of the ball. The Fire need to play quickly and decisively by recognizing their opponent’s patterns and using simple passes and smart runs to take defenders out of the play and get some quality looks on goal. The fullbacks for the Fire especially need to be smart about this, The past few games, they’ve been a little loose about when to push forward and when to defend. That’s got to tighten up here.
Put Away Chances: When the Fire won at Soldier Field two weeks ago, They were able to convert the scoring chances they had. Being on the road, they’re going to have fewer and fewer of them. They need to be clinical in front of goal, and part of that is starting Luka up top to be sure. But whoever is starting at 9, be it Offor or Beric, have to finish the chances that are created by the Fire’s midfield.
How To Watch
Streaming: CFFC Live/ ESPN+ out of market
When these two teams last met in New Jersey, the Fire wasn’t ready for the kind of pressure New York want to play with. However, as we saw two weeks ago, the teams are going in two completely different directions. I would expect a close game, but I think the Fire can edge it out despite being on the road. 2-1 final score.