Red Bulls-Fire Preview

The New York Red Bulls added Thierry Henry and Rafael Marquez in

an attempt to make a run at their first MLS Cup title. Nery

Castillo and Freddie Ljungberg’s impact for the Chicago Fire may be

even greater.

The Red Bulls and Fire are expected to have an array of stars on

the field Sunday night when the Eastern Conference rivals meet at

Toyota Park.

New York (8-6-3) is in second place in the Eastern Conference,

10 points behind Columbus. Seeking a boost, the club has been

active in the last month, signing Henry to provide another scoring

threat alongside Juan Pablo Angel and then adding Marquez to

tighten its defense.

Marquez, the Mexico national team captain, played alongside

Henry with Barcelona, but had recently gotten limited minutes and

made the decision to switch leagues.

“MLS seduced me. It may not be at the same level that some of

the European leagues (are), but it’s growing,” said Marquez, a

defender who is expected to start at defensive midfield. “I like

the idea of helping in that growth.”

Marquez will be looking to make an immediate impact a week after

Henry’s MLS debut produced assists on two goals by Angel. The Red

Bulls, though, gave up a goal in the final minute and settled for a

2-all tie with Houston.

While New York appears certain to reach the postseason, the Fire

(5-5-5) are out of playoff position. That didn’t stop them from

making two surprising moves for impact players.

The club acquired Castillo on loan, while trading with Seattle

for Ljungberg. The two attacking midfielders are expected to be the

focal point in a more offensive-minded game plan.

“I think we’re going to try to make triangles and try to make

the ball move and just keep the ball,” Ljungberg told the team’s

official website.

Castillo, 26, is trying to revive his flagging career after

failing to live up to lofty expectations following a $27.5 million

transfer to Ukraine’s Shakhtar Donetsk in 2007.

Once considered one of Mexico’s top young talents, Castillo

emerged from Greece’s Olympiacos after joining the club at 16 in

2000.

He played only seven games for Shakhtar, and created a major

controversy when he refused to give the ball to a teammate for a

penalty kick and proceeded to miss. This is the third loan move

since, as stretches at England’s Manchester City and Dnipro of

Ukraine were marred by injuries and limited to 10 total games.

Castillo’s struggles resulted in him being left off Mexico’s

World Cup roster.

Still, he’s considered a fan favorite in his homeland and his

addition could jolt the Fire’s offensive play in a city that has a

large Mexican population. The club spent the last three seasons

taking advantage of that market with Cuauhtemoc Blanco.

Ljungberg, a teammate of Henry’s at Arsenal, came off the bench

for his debut last Sunday, as the Fire did all of their scoring in

the first 19 minutes of a 3-2 win over MLS-leading Los Angeles.

Chicago hasn’t won back-to-back games since the end of April,

and is 5-0-1 at home against New York.

The Red Bulls won the last meeting 1-0 at home March 27, but

have gone 0-1-3 in their last four games.