The New York Red Bulls appear to have made it through the international break unscathed: no injuries reported among those returning from their national team camps; even Kemar Lawrence's wounded pride is recovering after he and his fellow Reggae Boyz eked out the necessary 2-0 win in Nicaragua to win through to the next round of World Cup qualifying.
Bradley Wright-Phillips missed a few days of training to rest the toe he injured against D.C. United, but the lack of updates on his condition suggests he's been present in recent training sessions, there is nothing to report on that front, and he is fit to play.
Of the international absentees, Matt Miazga's time away from the club was deliberately managed to allow him time to recover and prepare for this match. Karl Ouimette played 15 minutes in Belize for Canada on Wednesday, but he isn't a first-choice starter anyway. The only doubt is Kemar Lawrence, who played both of Jamaica's qualifying matches against Nicaragua, racking up 180 minutes on the field plus flights from New York to Jamaica and Jamaica to Nicaragua. The Red Bulls let slip that they had hoped to have Lawrence back after Jamaica's first qualifier on September 4th, but the Reggae Boyz needed all hands on deck after losing the first leg 3-2, so Kemar had to stay for the full international break.
Taxi may need to be parked for a little while. Especially since the Red Bulls are facing a run of three games in 10 days from September 16 to 25th - a stretch that includes trips to play on turf in New England and Portland.
So don't be shocked if Jesse Marsch chooses to rest Lawrence for this outing, since the left back is only just returned from an active international break and there are some big games ahead. Anthony Wallace could step in to provide the perfectly
This column, however, chooses to believe Marsch is prioritizing winning home games, and avenging the memory of the humbling Chicago inflicted on RBNY the last time these teams met. The Red Bulls' back four was tortured by the Fire's pace in the attacking third when these teams met in Bridgeview in August. If Taxi has any gas left in his tank, it might be prudent to let it be spent on trying to contain the Chicago counter-attack.
Consequently, the prediction this week is a starting lineup unchanged from the last time the Red Bulls played - against DC on August 30.
That lineup appears to be Marsch's preferred starting XI at this stage of the season. RBNY's run-in includes multiple double-game weeks, so there will likely be a time when the coach is forced to rotate his squad to keep legs fresh and minds focused. But those decisions will be more easily taken with points in the bag. No team has clinched a playoff spot yet (that might have changed by the end of the current round of matches), and there is, of course, the possibility of a Supporters' Shield - a trophy of perhaps greater significance to a club not overburdened with past success, such as RBNY.
A home game against the bottom team in MLS is a moment to seize the initiative, not take a breather.