Red Bulls-Fire Preview
By winning their regular-season finale against the lowly Chicago Fire, the New York Red Bulls are virtually guaranteed to win a second Supporters’ Shield in three years.
Earning a victory at Toyota Park, though, has never been easy.
With the Shield in their sights, the Red Bulls try to snap a 14-match road winless stretch against the Fire on Sunday night.
Tied with FC Dallas for the most points in MLS, New York (17-10-6) is virtually assured to finish with the league’s best record and coveted Supporters’ Shield with a victory by virtue of its superior goal differential.
"Take Sunday’s game and play it like a final," Red Bulls midfielder Sacha Kljestan said.
As long as New York at least stays level on points with Dallas, which plays at San Jose at the same time, it will win the Supporters’ Shield unless Dallas can make up a six-goal differential.
"The main way you look at it, we just have to take care of our own business," coach Jesse Marsch told the Red Bulls’ official website.
"We’re committed, we want this, we’re going after it, but let’s do it in a smart way tactically, with the mentality that we have."
That sounds simple enough considering Chicago (8-19-6) has the fewest points in MLS and has dropped six of the last seven.
However, all of the Fire’s victories have come at home, where they won 3-2 over New York on Aug. 26. The Red Bulls are 0-9-5 at Chicago since a 3-0 victory May 14, 2005 at Soldier Field. All but one of those 14 matches have come at the Fire’s current southwest suburban venue.
"It’s a team that knows that they match up well against us in certain ways and have had success against us," said Marsch, who was one of Chicago’s most popular players while there from 1998-2005.
"Again, it’s another game where we’re not afraid of the situation, we’re not afraid of Chicago. We know that we respect them. We’re going to step on the field and go after things, and we’re going to make sure that continues to be a huge part of our identity."
New York leading scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips recorded his second goal in seven matches in last Sunday’s 4-1 win over Philadelphia. He scored one of his 16 goals in a 3-2 home win over Chicago on Sept. 11.
Teammate Mike Grella snapped a five-game goal drought with two against the Union.
Chicago returns home after falling 4-0 at D.C. United last weekend to become the seventh team in league history to finish without a road victory. With 30 points, the Fire must win to avoid falling short of the franchise-low 33 recorded in 2004.
"You’ve got to up your mental game," coach Brian Bliss said. "You’ve got to fight to finish out the season."
Chicago’s Kennedy Igboananike has been held to one of his seven goals in six games since scoring twice at home against New York.