Sitting 10th in the Eastern Conference after a surprisingly slow 1-3-1 start, the Chicago Fire now must hit the road for back-to-back contests starting with Saturday afternoon’s game against the team that knocked them out of the MLS Cup Playoffs last season, the New York Red Bulls, at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.
The Fire, who finished third in the Eastern Conference and also in the race for the Supporters’ Shield last season, then must travel to defending MLS champion Toronto the following weekend.
“I think we have to just stick together, work on improving, getting better, fixing things,” Chicago coach Veljko Paunovic told MLSsoccer.com after his team’s latest loss, a 1-0 home setback to Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the LA Galaxy last Saturday at Toyota Park.
The loss to the Galaxy was the second home defeat of the season for Chicago, matching it’s total for the 2016-17 campaign when it finished 16-7-11 overall.
Now comes a road game against the sixth place Red Bulls (3-2-0, 9 points) who are a perfect 3-0-0 at home and have scored at least three goals in each win while compiling a plus-9 in goal differential.
New York is also 4-0-2 in the last six regular-season meetings with Chicago and sent the Fire packing with a lopsided 4-0 road victory in the knockout round of the MLS Playoffs last October at Toyota Park.
“I think they’re a team that needs a result,” Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch said of the Fire to MLSsoccer.com. “We know that it is a quality team, that it will be personal with them after knocking them out of the playoffs, so we have to be fully prepared for a really tough match.”
New York bounced back from a 1-0 aggregate loss to Chivas de Guadalajara in the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League to defeat Montreal, 3-1, last Saturday as forward Bradley Wright-Phillips scored his fourth goal of the season and added an assist. The 33-year-old Phillips has 90 career MLS goals, including eight against Chicago, which hasn’t won at Red Bull Arena since a 5-4 victory on May 10, 2014.
—Field Level Media