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Match Preview: NY Red Bulls vs. Chicago Fire

The basics

Chicago (0-0-0) vs. New York (0-0-0) at Red Bull Arena, Harrison, N.J.

All-time record: Chicago leads the series 20-10-6

TV info

7:00 p.m. ET; ESPN and ESPN Deportes

What's at stake?

New York can continue the momentum of last weekend’s 3-1 win over Brazilian club Santos with a solid effort against Chicago. New York could take a big step in eradicating the sour taste of a last place finish in 2009 with a win over the Fire. Carlos de los Cobos makes his debut as Fire head coach with several new faces.

Last meeting

If the Red Bulls cringe a bit at the fact that their team is hosting the Fire, forgive them. Last May, New York completely outclassed Chicago at Giants Stadium, holding more possession, creating more chances, amassing more corners and registering a 2:1 advantage on shots on goal. Yet the Red Bulls still managed to find a way to lose 1-0. The Red Bulls would go on to lose 10 of their next 11 in league play.

Remember when?

It was a midweek cup final at Giants Stadium on October 15, 2003. Chicago got a 68th minute goal from forward Damani Ralph to defeat the MetroStars (now the Red Bulls) and earn its third Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title in six years. With its conquest in East Rutherford, N.J., the Fire became the first MLS team to win the cup final on the road. Ralph was in training with the Red Bulls during the offseason in a comeback attempt from serious injury. The Red Bulls did not sign him.

Heroes & Villains ...

Kandji/Angel vs. C.J. Brown & Co.: Imposing play has often frustrated the Red Bulls forwards and Chicago’s defenders are not afraid to be physical when need be. How Brown manages to contain, and when need be, mix it up with Angel, promises to be an entertaining affair to watch. Angel is returning to full health after suffering a right knee injury in a pre-season match against Toronto. Thursday was his first full practice with the team in several weeks.

John-McBride pairing makes MLS debut: On the flip side, the Red Bulls centerbacks will be tested by the former Fulham strike partnership of Collins John and Brian McBride. The duo combined well together in England, with John netting 11 goals in 2005-2006. The Red Bulls back line features a rookie, Tim Ream, who said that he is honored to play against fellow St. Louis University grad McBride, but that this time last year, “I thought I’d be watching the MLS opener on a bench somewhere and not actually being in it.”

Stat that makes you go, “Hmm …”

New York hasn’t beaten Chicago in their last five match-ups against their Eastern Conference foe, having been outscored 13-3 over the stretch. The Red Bulls last win against the Fire came on September 1, 2007 at New York.

He said it

“I don’t try to look back – I’m excited about this year. There are a lot of positives this year.” New York Red Bulls’ forward Juan Pablo Angel on closing the chapter on last season and opening 2010.