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PREVIEW: Searching for a first win, New York voyages into the 3 points black-hole known as Toyota Park

The New York Red Bulls have never won a game at the Chicago Fire’s home field, Toyota Park, in Bridgeview, ILL. In fact, they have only won three times in Chicago since its inception in 1998 at two other temporary venues. The last meeting brought a Supporter’s Shield to head coach Mike Petke’s hands. This time, will the New York legend bury his face in them after another defeat?

RBNY PR’s promotional video:

Pregame quotes breakdown:

What Petke said about the Fire *Long Island accent* – “They have 11 guys who work completely, which poses a problem unless you match their workrate. That’s first and foremost every game. And they have some qualities — Rolfe, Magee if he’s back, Alex, Amarikwa up front with his speed, Larentowicz. They have some good players. They move the ball well, they love to counter quick, and they work as a unit.”

  • What he actually meant – “Guys, we do this every week. I swear everyone runs freaking fast in Major League Soccer. The guys I just mentioned are alright, I guess. Look, I mean Magee is half decent. What else you want me to say? Everything I listed are applicable to more than half of the league. Reuse this for next week. Oh wait, we’re playing Chivas?”

What Petke said about Lloyd Sam – “He’s head and shoulders above where he was last year at this time. Came in with a good attitude, worked hard and he focused on what we want out of him as a right-sided midfielder. I’m very happy with Lloyd.”

  • What he actually meant – “Don’t worry, I made him bust him bust his [explicit] in preseason. Thank god because this guy is about as creative as we get.”

What Dax said about the Fire – “In this league, it’s difficult to catch up once you get behind. We’re not panicking. We have a good squad.”

  • What he actually meant – “It’s the third game of the season. We’re panicking. The fans should be too.”

Top 3 story-lines/questions fans may be pondering:

  1. Who will play right back? Eckersley received the start in the first two games following his trade from Toronto this past off-season. His two performances are mixed so far (one bad, one good). Kimura, who was heavily touted to be the starter, has yet to make an appearance. After winning the battle versus Brandon Barklage for a roster spot (to the shock of some), it is odd that the Japanese player is being benched in favor of the Englishman. 
  2. Let’s get creative.  Petke publicly called for more creativity from his attackers. The Red Bulls have scored two goals so far, both coming off Sam crosses. A disjointed performance last week against Colorado was full of hopeful long passes for Henry or BWP to flick forward. To their credit, they were successful on many occasions. However, more patience and unpredictability is necessary in the final third. Despite ultimately being outplayed in a 4-1 defeat, the first half in Vancouver demonstrated positive and dangerous interplay between the front four. A repeat of that first period, this time with Henry playing, would be a welcome sight.
  3. Will Magee play? The former Metrostar/Red Bull (and newly-signed designated player?) has reportedly been sidelined with a hamstring injury. The reigning MVP will want to inaugurate the new season with a goal or two (or three) against his old team.

Scouting report:

  • Chicago, like New York, is 0-1-1. After an embarrassing away loss to Chivas USA (RIP), the fire rebounded with a draw in Portland. Defensive midfielder Jeff Larentowicz scored their only goal off a penalty kick.
  • Head coach Frank Yallop is mixing youth with veteran experience evenly in his first year with Chicago. The back-line’s core consists of veterans John Kennedy Hurtado (29) partnered with Backary Soumare (28) and is flanked by the additional experienced presence of Gonzalo Segares (31) and Lovel Palmer (29). In attack, they have exciting young midfielders like Benji Joya (20) and Harrison Shipp (22). The two American players are earning playing time alongside forwards Quincy Amarikwa (26) and Juan Luis Anangono (24). Amarikwa and Joya have one goal each.
  • Dily Duka, Chris Rolfe and Lovel Palmer are all likely out due to injury. Against Portland, winger Patrick Nyarko was suspended for a red card, while Palmer was injured and replaced by Patrick Ianni. As aforementioned, Mike Magee is projected to play some portion of the game.

Predicted starting lineup: From watching the brief clips of practice in the preview video, one can make an educated guess that the starters are NOT wearing pinnies. The only question is whether Steele or Convey begins the match on the left two-way wing (both can be viewed wearing pinnies at one point).

Robles; Eckersley, Olave, Sekagya, Miller; Sam, McCarty, Cahill, Steele; Wright-Phillips, Henry

Predicted score: 2-2 (Chicago: Shipp, Awmirikwa; New York: Cahill x2)

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