The New York Red Bulls have not gotten off to the best start of 2014 MLS season. Their opening match against the Vancouver Whitecaps was about as bad a defeat as the team is likely to suffer this year and last week's match against the Colorado Rapids, while a step in the right direction, was still a disappointing affair. It's not time to panic...yet, but if New York isn't able to pull out some kind of result this Sunday in Chicago, there may be reason to start worrying.
Here's what we know:
- New York needs to focus on the midfield.
Dax McCarty and Tim Cahill have not looked like themselves over the last two weeks. McCarty, usually one of the team's most solid players, has looked out of sorts and overwhelmed, while Cahill has looked a bit stiff and out of form. Chicago will be looking to take advantage of that. Mike Petke has said that the team needs more creativity in the attack, but we've yet to see Peguy Luyindula, the team's most demonstrably creative spark in the midfield, log any significant minutes in the attacking mid role. Look for that to change this Sunday.
- Chicago will be missing some speed.
The Fire are going into the upcoming match without speedy attacker, Patrick Nyarko. The Ghanaian forward was sent off last week after receiving a second yellow late in the match against the Portland Timbers. As such, he will be unable to take the pitch this Sunday. Nyarko is far form a world beater, but the New York back four aren't exactly the paciest defense in the league. As evidenced in the Vancouver match, speed kills.
- Chicago will NOT be missing some MVP.
Mike Magee, last seasons most valuable player, and spark plug for Chicago's attack, will finally return to the pitch this Sunday after a two week long holdout/bum leg/argument with his manager/fitness issue. Magee, once a metro himself (see what I did there?) is a known Red Bull killer, so it would have been nice if he wanted to wait another week to make his return, but what can ya do? Jamison Olave and Armando are going to have their hands full throughout the entire match, while Magee will be looking to make a statement in his first game of 2014.
- The lock out is over!!!!
There's good news and bad news. First, the good news: The referee lock out is over so we won't have to deal with any more replacement refs! Now for the bad news: We're back to dealing with the official MLS referees. Yippee.
Here's what we don't know:
- Just what the hell is Petke thinking?!
I hate to repeat a topic form last week but, once again, Petke made some baffling lineup decisions for the Colorado match. Is he just tinkering, trying to figure out where the new pieces will fit? Sure, Richard Eckersley had a solid second outing, but inserting Bobby Convey in the left over Jonny Steele? What's the deal? Is he for real? (<------- eh? eh? ugh) Obnoxious rhyming aside, there's just no telling who we're going to see in the starting eleven this Sunday. Will Tim Cahill start up top with Thierry Henry? Will, as mentioned previously, Peguy finally start a game at CAM? Will Ruben Bover finally get some regular season minutes after a strong preseason?
The last time the Red Bulls played a game in Bridgeview, they got spanked 3-1, though some would call that score line flattering. This time around, New York needs to make a statement. One that says "we're the same team that won the Shield. Now let us show you how it's done."