The Chicago Fire face a tough task as they travel east to meet conference rival New York Red Bulls on Saturday night. This new Fire team has yet to produce a win away from home so far this season. Over the previous two road games the Fire have taken a combined 7-1 drubbing. Conversely, the Red Bulls are undefeated at home to start the season and have looked much improved after a slow start to the season. Add in the emotional return of Dax McCarty to Red Bull arena and this match could well be the game of the weekend.
Three Things to Ponder Ahead of Chicago Fire vs. New York Red Bulls
Chicago hold the all-time advantage against New York with a 26W-15L-10T record. Fifteen of the 26 wins do come from matches played in Chicago however. With a lot to look forward to in Saturdays clash, here are three things that stick out most.
Dax McCarty’s return to New York
Dax McCarty got married one day and was traded away from New York the next. The Red Bulls’ decision to send away their captain was shocking and Dax was clearly and publicly upset by the January trade. Saturday marks the American’s return to the club and a opportunity to say farewell. “I don’t think I got a chance to say a proper goodbye to a lot of the guys on the team and I don’t think I got a chance to say a proper goodbye and thank you to the fans for the way that they treated me when I was in New York” McCarty said ahead of his return.
The new Fire midfielder’s play has been key in the Fire’s success so far this season. The 29 year old will have to put in a top notch performance Saturday for the Fire to get anything out of the trip. Observing McCarty’s performance on the road at his old home should be a fascinating watch in and of itself.
How does Bastian bounce back after loss to Toronto?
Bastian Schweinsteiger suffered his first MLS defeat last Friday in Toronto. He and many of his teammates had their worst outings of the 2017 campaign while north of the border. The german legend didn’t have the touch on the ball seen in the previous three matches at Toyota Park. Schweinsteiger was also clearly frustrated by some of the calls from the MLS officials and stayed to engage with them long after the full-time whistle.
How Bastian and his new team bounces back from the deflating loss will be key Saturday night. The World Cup winner is learning MLS road wins are hard to come by. The Fire are yet to win on the road and only Atlanta United have won away twice this year in MLS. If the Fire can replicate some of their home form in New York, the match should be a competitive contest. If the Fire earn a draw in the match it should be considered a success, earning their first road win in Red Bull Arena would be a statement.
How long can Jorge Bava remain the Fire starting goalkeeper?
It is not commonplace for me to encourage a player or coach lose their job, but Jorge Bava does not appear to be at a winning MLS level. There were question marks and a few raised eyebrows when the Fire brought in the 35 year old goalkeeper in January. The Uruguayan shot stopper was largely untested in the first few matches but looked nervy and erratic when called upon. He has shown a bad habit of slapping crossed balls back into dangerous areas and looks very slow in general.
Bava’s performance in Toronto cemented in my mind his need to be sat aside. The most damning moment came in the 47th minute when he dove and pushed away a Sebastian Giovinco free kick that was headed at least four yards wide of his goal. Im not sure I have ever witnessed a professional goalkeeper appear so unaware of his own position to the net. The Fire coaching staff should be concerned about the ripple of insecurity his play causes tp the squad in front of him. The frustrated reactions of his teammates are clear to see when watching on television. A shaky goalkeeper tends to make for a shaky defense.
A replacement in goal seems highly unlikely this week however. The Fire staff appear quite keen on the veteran keeper and I assume coach Paunovic values experienced players in road games. The Fire’s goalkeeping depth chart includes 27 year old backup Matt Lampson and 2017 second round draft pick Stefan Cleveland.