Chicago vs. New York: Positional breakdown

Which side has the advantage in Sunday's massive clash on ESPN2?


Debutant Sean Johnson showed his promise in last week's win in Los Angeles. Athletic and confident, he now goes under the microscope at home in one of the highest-profile matches of the season. Can he handle it?

GOALKEEPING

 

To keep out the likes of Ljungberg, McBride, and Castillo, it's going to have to be Bouna Time more than once. Prone to the silly gaffe, Bouna Coundoul has produced big performances in big games before.

The reacquisition of Gonzalo Segares gives a creaky backline a lift, both physically and emotionally. The key, though, remains Conde, who will have to be at his best to stop the Henry-Angel combo.

DEFENDERS


Tim Ream remains the most composed rookie defender in MLS since Michael Parkhurst, but the rest of the defense has struggled to contain dynamic attacks like the one Chicago could unleash. The Fire will key on Mendes after his struggles last week.

DLC will probably stick with the 4-1-4-1 formation, meaning at times the midfield will be flooded with red. Pappa and Nyarko are honest two-wayers out wide, but Ljungberg and Castillo will float forward more often than not, leaving Pause and lots of space for NY to attack.

MIDFIELDERS

According to everything coach Backe has said, Marquez will be at the bottom of the diamond, with perhaps Kandji at the top, and Richards and Lindpere on the wings. As good as Rafa is, he can't handle the five attack-minded the Fire will throw out there alone. 

McBride or John will start up top alone. Not bad options, either way. Whoever will have to hold onto the ball to allow the speedsters behind him to get into the action. Then be a beast on set pieces.

FORWARDS

Henry. Angel. Enough said.

De los Cobos has struggled to find the right mix all season, and it doesn't get any easier with so many new faces in the locker room. But those new faces have talent and DLC knows how to get the most out of players under trying circumstance.

MANAGER

Hans Backe has concocted one of the most delicious rosters in MLS history, and he's shown he knows how to properly season it all. Now he has to show that he can balance a room full of superstar cooks in his kitchen. The Swedish chef?

Baggio Husidic and Mike Banner are automatic starters on shallower teams. Both are honest back-and-forth players with some flair for the attack.

BENCH

Depth is the Achilles heal of the Red Bulls this season. Jeremy Hall, Toni Tchani, and Conor Chinn are young and not quite ready for primetime. The return of veteran Carl Robinson gives a staunch option in the midfield.
The Fire not only picked up three points last week, but also inhaled gallons of confidence. With Ljungberg working his way into the fold, Segares returning, and Castillo set to debut, they seem poised to challenge New York on Sunday and the entire league going forward. But all the changes could take more time to coalesce.

OVERALL

Henry showed his introduction to the side will be all positive. Can Marquez be folded in as seamlessly and as effectively? This is the question everyone is asking the lead-up, and the one this match will answer very quickly—and very publically.