Friday, August 31, 2007

Red Bulls Preview: Game 23 vs. Flamers

After a down-in-the-dumps week that saw New York lose at DC and New England, the Red Bulls (10-9-3) face another hot division rival, the Chicago Fire (7-9-5) at the Swamp on Saturday (7:30p ET, MSG). Tomorrow's Fire squad will look nothing like the team that New York blanked 3-0 on May 24th, however. Impressive roster addtions Temoc Blanco and Paulo Wanchope have lifted Chicago to within a single point of playoff position. Chicago's new coach Juan Carlos Osorio has the Fire playing with confidence, while the Red Bulls are once again looking to keep their season on a positive note. A loss will drop New York to .500, where they haven't been since Week 1 (0-0-1).

Recent Form/Playoff Position
New York: LWWLL/3d in East, would face DC in 1st rd.
Chicago: WDWLW/6th in East, 1 pt. from playoff pos.

Here's a line-by-line look at what to expect tomorrow:
The Fire forwards vs. the New York defense:
Calen Carr and Pablo Wanchope vs. Hunter Freeman, Jeff Parke, Seth Stammler, and Chris Leith (and Ron Waterreus). Carr (3g) has to be elated with the additions to his Fire squad. His Costa Rican strike partner (1g) has been terrorizing defenses for most of his storied career at EPL clubs like West Ham and Man City. While Wanchope is a little long in the tooth, he'll be dangerous against MLS defenses. The NY backline's three goals for tomorrow: 1) stop allowing keepers to get assists, 2) stop allowing own goals, and 3) provide confidence that they can help win some points. I guess after Conway's howler last week, the Walrus will be back in the NY net. Advantage: Chicago

The Red Bulls' attackers vs. the Chicago defense:
Jozy Altidore and Juan Pablo Angel vs. Dasan Robinson, Diego Gutierrez, and C.J. Brown (and Jon Busch). Not much more can be said about Jozy and the Angel. They score goals (21 of NY's 36 this season and 8 in the last five games). They have flair. They'll be playing at home. Hopefully they'll produce. Chicago has pitched a surprising four shutouts in their last five. Yes, their opponents included TFC, RSL, and Columbus, but they also shutout KC at home last week.Advantage: New York

The Midfields:
Dane Richards. Claudio Reyna, Joe Vide, and Clint Mathis vs. Ivan Guerrero, Chris Armas, Temoc Blanco, Bakary Soumare, and Logan Pause. Vide has been a steady sub, and has supplanted Dave van den Bergh in the starting lineup. Richards continues to have a fine rookie season. Key stat for New York: the Red Bulls are 5-6-3 in matches that Claudio Reyna plays, 5-3-0 in matches he does not. Chicago's midfield now runs through Blanco, who has two goals and four assists in his five matches in a Fire uniform. Armas will be steady as always at d-mid and Guerrero is always tough. Advantage: Push

The Coaches:
Rookie coach Osorio has to thank his lucky stars that Blanco and Wanchope are on the roster, because the Fire were woeful without them. He has his team jelling at just the right time, and has his team believing in themselves. Arena should start thinking about his next gig, because his present one might not be his much longer. Advantage: Chicago

One has to wonder how many of the 66,000+ that attended the Red Bulls' last match will return in the middle of a holiday weekend, though the appearance of Blanco may tip attendance to the support of the visitors. On the field, one club is making gains, while the other is accepting its fate. You guess which one is which. Advantage: Chicago

Blanco and Wanchope have punished the U.S. MNT for years. Tomorrow, they'll punish the Red Bulls in front of a group of happy Mexican fans at Giants Stadium. Chicago wins, 3-1.

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