Prime Your Fire Pump: Chicago Fire vs. New York Red Bulls

Thierry Henry and friends come to Toyota Park for the Fire's third straight Sunday tilt.

Thierry Henry and friends come to Toyota Park for the Fire’s home opener, their third straight Sunday match.
(photo: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

OTF’s Jon Denham primes your pump before bundling up with Section 8 this weekend, and Mark Fishkin from Seeing Red provides the latest from out east…

Ah, sweet home Chicago. Some days are a little sweeter than others, and March 23, 2014 will be one of those days for Fire Nation. The #cf97withdrawals are almost over. The #MikeMageeWithdrawals are almost over. The pitch at Toyota Park will be unmolested. The sounds coming from The Harlem End should be at peak volume after a full winter’s rest. 

The first point of the season is in the bag, and now the quest for the first victory of the year brings the Men in Red back to Bridgeview. We’ve seen 180 minutes of the Frank Yallop era on television and now, finally, we get a firsthand look. The late push for the 2013 postseason ended abruptly at Red Bull Arena, 5-2, last October. Now, Mike Petke’s side comes to a place where they’ve never won. 

The Fire boasts an impressive 7-0-3 home record against New York in Toyota Park. Chicago has netted three goals on the road so far, while Red Bulls have managed one in each of their two games so far. Neither team has earned a shutout. 

So where does that leave us? Itching for another step in a positive direction for the Fire under a new coaching regime and wanting some payback. We want a fast start. We want a steady back line. We want to notice our captain for all the right reasons throughout the game. We want to pepper the New York goal like Vancouver did. 

We’re hungry for the things we know the club is most proud to remind us about. Tradition. Honor. Passion. We want CJ Brown to help this roster understand what it means to wear our badge. We want to honor the current squad with the home atmosphere they deserve. We want visiting teams to remember the passion they encountered at Toyota Park from players and supporters alike. 

Not only do we want the playoffs, we want playoff-caliber soccer week in and week out. We want to see it with our own eyes at 2:00pm on Sunday afternoon. And damn it, we want Mike Magee, too.  

No bust up, no dust up - the manager and Magic Mike are on the same page heading into Sundayh

No bust up, no dust up. The manager and the Magic One are on the same page heading into Sunday.
(photo: @Magee9 ‘s twitter feed)

There is no guarantee Magee’s introduction to the 2014 MLS season will occur during pregame walkouts. Depending on his fitness level and the flow of the game, Magee could make his 2014 debut at halftime, the hour mark, or in the final ten minutes. Whenever that time comes, he’ll undoubtedly offer a spark to the lineup. The hometown kid will peel off his training jacket and enter the field in a home opener for the first time, and will certainly receive a MVP’s welcome from Section 8 and the rest of the Toyota Park crowd. 

“From Chicago. Love Chicago.” his Twitter bio states. Chicago loves you too, Mikey. 

Lineup & Tactics

After the draw with Portland, Yallop mentioned his displeasure with the effort against Chivas. Last Sunday, he showed his willingness to make four changes to the starting lineup from week one to week two. He’ll have a chance to tinker with things again this week.

Patrick Nyarko is unavailable due to suspension. It took the Fire mainstay all of 20 minutes to draw two yellow cards as a second-half sub against the Timbers. Mike Magee went through a full training session on Wednesday for the first time since prior to the week two match in Portland. Yallop’s message to the MVP last week was clear: He needs to be 100% fit if he wants to see the pitch. Both parties are on the same page according to the chicago-fire.com article from Wednesday.

There’s a decent chance Yallop runs out the same lineup he did in Portland for the home crowd:

It is entirely possible the Men In Red walk out of the tunnel against RBNY as they did against Portland

It is entirely possible the Men In Red walk out of the tunnel against RBNY the same way they did against Portland…

Up top, Quincy Amarikwa remained a threat and drew the foul that led to Jeff Larentowicz’s spot kick in the first half. Quincy again earned post game praise from the manager and, for now, the single striker role seems to be his job to lose. Behind Amarikwa, Harry Shipp, Benji Joya, and Alex did enough alongside Matt Watson to generate some offense in front of Donovan Ricketts. 

The captain remains in the space in front of the center backs against another team with a historically potent attack. Lovel Palmer and Gonzalo Segares will have some work to do against Red Bulls. When Bakary Soumare and Sean Johnson crossed signals in the 71st minute, the 1-0 lead was still intact, but the pressure was building. Will Johnson inexplicably shot the ball wide, but seven minutes later the scoreline was even after poor defending by Jeff Larentowicz.

Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Soumare deserve credit for doing enough to come home with a point. Soumare earned MLS Team of the Week honors after sniffing out numerous attacks and proving himself in the air. The group in front of him managed just 38.5% possession. Sean Johnson logged six saves and the Men in Red blocked another nine shots. It wasn’t pretty, but it gave the group a lot to look at on film as they try to improve in the early part of the season.

My bench: Reynish; Cochrane, Ianni; Duka, Rolfe; Anangonó, Magee

Prediction to argue about in the comments section…

New York Red Bulls (2), Chicago Fire (2)

A goal in each half for each team. Henry opens the scoring before an Amarikwa equalizer. Magee enters and gives Chicago the lead before Henry logs a late brace to earn a point for the visitors. 

Seeing Red (Bulls) with Mark Fishkin

The New York Red Bulls started the 2013 season 0-4-2 before turning it around and winning the Supporters Shield. The 2014 incarnation of the club has also started slow (0-1-1) and now heads to a place where they’ve never tasted victory: Bridgeview’s Toyota Park.

While Red Bull fans watched a serene offseason go by with few moves, their mainstays have yet to put together an impressive performance after getting blown out in Vancouver and suffering through a home draw against Colorado.

Neither Tim Cahill nor Dax McCarty has shown his form of a year ago, and if those two cogs aren’t clicking, the Red Bulls will flounder. With only two shots on frame last week against Colorado, New York’s offense is struggling.

(photo: thevipersnest.com)

(photo: thevipersnest.com)

Luis Robles was the ‘keeper of the MLS Team of the Week last week, but his back line is a work in progress. Newcomer Armando will be watched closely by the referee, as he’s flailed his appendages into opponents for two matches now.

Richard Eckersley improved from week one to week two, but is still unproven. Roy Miller inexplicably cleared a ball into the center of the box last match. Bobby Convey and Johnny Steele appear to be platooning on the left side.

Lloyd Sam, with assists on both of New York’s goals this season, and Thierry Henry, now second in all-time MLS goals for the Red Bulls, have been the two bright lights of 2014. New York needs more than two, though. Have I mentioned the Red Bulls have never won at Toyota Park?

*EDITOR’S ADDENDUM*

  • The shadow organization known as the MLS Disciplinary Committee levied a two-match suspension on Fire fullback Lovel Palmer on Friday for this incident last Sunday at Portland. Possible replacements at right back for this Sunday’s home opener are Patrick Ianni, Mark Watson, and rookie Marco Franco.
  • Fire Left back Gonzalo Segares (ankle injury) is likely out as well Sunday. Expect recent acquisition Greg Cochrane to play in the veteran’s stead.  

Guest contributor Mark Fishkin leads the charge at seeingredny.com Follow Mark @MarkFishkin

OTF’s Jon Denham grew up about seven miles north of The Harlem End. He now lives in Dubuque, Iowa, and may be its only resident with the MLS Direct Kick package. Jon’s the goalkeepers’ coach at Loras College, your go-to guy for t-shirts and promotional products at Envision Sports Designs, and writes some other stuff at Inclusive Beechwood Aging. Follow Jon @Denham_Jon

Chicago Fire vs. New York Red Bulls
Sunday, March 16, 2:00 pm cst at Toyota Park
Television: My50 Chicago, UniMas, TWC SC Wisconsin
La radio en Español: La Ley 107.9 FM en Chicago

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9 thoughts on “Prime Your Fire Pump: Chicago Fire vs. New York Red Bulls

  1. Last week the captain was Sean Johnson, not Larentowicz. An interesting development no one has yet either noticed or commented upon that I’ve seen.

  2. Lloyd Sam has been fun to watch this year. Obviously Henry is always the main concern, but I think for Sunday at least, Sam will demand even more attention than Cahill. Not an easy assignment. But Fire win 14-0

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