The last week was a disaster. The Fire got bounced out of the US Open Cup in penalties, got deconstructed by Minnesota United, and I moved. We discovered the downsides of having a DP playmaker— if they don’t make plays the team is in trouble. We’ve seen the downsides of playing a hyper-talented but still raw 17-year-old in net.
But that was last week. This week, the Fire have a very gettable New York Red Bulls team who historically are very bad in Chicago, and in Soldier Field in particular. Jairo Torres is scheduled to join the team the day after and could play as soon as next week in Atlanta. The time is now for the Fire to get right. It could be a prelude to a hot summer on the lake.
Chicago Fire home MLS record vs New York Red Bulls: 17W-10D-5L, 54 GF / 32 GA, 61 pts out of 96
The Red Bulls won their second in a row last weekend 3-0 against Orlando City after advancing against Hartford in the Open Cup. Before that was a scoreless draw and against FC Dallas and a loss to CF Montreal. They’ve only scored 3 goals in their last four games before the Open Cup, so much like the Fire, this isn’t a team that scores a ton of goals.
Let’s talk about Xherdan Shaqiri. Against Minnesota, he was horrible. However, his best run of play happened when he and Brian Gutierrez switched positions with Guti taking the 10 roles and Big Shaq moving out wide. Ultimately as the season goes on, this is probably the best setup for the squad in the attack. Guti’s passing, especially his medium to long-range passing, has been pinpoint accurate and he’s starting to read the game at a very high level. For Shaqiri’s part, the move would allow him to let the game come to him instead of trying to force himself to be the main playmaker. He can play simpler and be more effective, plus he can be in a better position to score some goals.
Mauricio Pineda will slot back into the 6 positions with Fede being out with a red card suspension, and What I said last week about Missael Rodriguez applies. With one game left until the spot is locked down by Jairo Torres, I want to see what the kid has against the highest level of competition.
Keys To The Match
Do What You Do: The good thing about this weekend is that the way the Fire’s default defensive setup is very good against the Red Bulls. They have a tough time breaking down compact defenses and the Fire love to sit back in two banks of four and choke off space, not allowing the opposing offense space to work.
The Red Bulls love to run, but if their initial foray forward doesn’t produce anything, they’re not particularly good at resetting and going again. That’s where the Fire can pounce and attack on the counter. Which brings us to key number 2.
Get Better on the Counter: The Fire counter attack has been nonexistent this season. The lack of pace and ability to stretch defenses mean that the Fire’s best scoring opportunities have come from good possession and good passing. But, against New York, they’re going to have to get right on the lightning-quick attack.
The Red Bulls have one of the stingiest defenses in the league. Their biggest weakness is getting caught upfield and giving up goals on the counter. The Fire have an opportunity to get their counter game right against a team that’s soft against it. They should take it.
How To Watch
Streaming: cf97 Live/ ESPN+ (out of market)
This is another one where it could go either way. If the Fire can put the ball in the back of the net, they have a good shot at picking up all 3 points. But if they struggle to score early, it has the potential to snowball into more misery.