The Red Bulls head into Sunday night’s suddenly marquee match in Chicago with a boat-load of confidence and expectations. The Fire sit in fourth place, seven points behind New York in the Eastern Conference’s standings. Four things to watch ahead of Sunday night’s match in Toyota Park:
1. Expect to see Henry, Márquez
Thierry Henry told MLSsoccer.com earlier this week that he was surprised at his inclusion in the starting lineup last weekend in Houston, but this weekend, he is expected to once again start.
While Henry only went 90 minutes because the Red Bulls were up a man, head coach Hans Backe isn’t certain how long his striker will play in Chicago. The striker said that he still anticipates full match fitness in “two to three weeks.”
Backe said he was pleased with the shape and condition that Rafael Márquez arrived in last week and that he could see the player making an appearance, if not starting, on Sunday.
2. Building confidence
After two strong performances in the Barclays New York Challenge and then a point on the road in Houston, the Red Bulls are playing some good soccer right now.
“We played the way we wanted to play in the second half,” Backe told MLSsoccer.com. “We played with patience and created scoring opportunities.”
Even up a man for the entire second half against Houston, the Red Bulls were still pleased with the tie despite conceding a late equalizer.
“It was a good point away from home,” Henry said.
3. The Henry-Ángel partnership
Even though he didn’t score, Henry’s MLS debut was scintillating and his partnership with Juan Pablo Angel up top was certainly dynamic.
Three, maybe four times in the first half, Henry could have scored. However, he did create both of Ángel’s goals that night.
“I didn’t have the chance to practice with him much, with the injury and then the All-Star Game,” Ángel told MLSsoccer.com. “But I think the potential is there. I think we played very well.”
This could be a fun one in Chicago. Toyota Park always has a great atmosphere with Section 8 supporting the Fire behind the goal, but the home-field advantage might be negated on Sunday night.
Yes, it is the home debut of the Fire’s signing Nery Castillo, but it might also be the league debut for Márquez.
The Red Bulls’ No. 4 is legend in Mexico and, along with Hugo Sánchez, is among the most accomplished Mexicans of all-time. While fans will come out to cheer for Castillo, there will be a lot of Márquez jerseys and cheers at the match.
“It’s going to be a great atmosphere,” defender Carlos Mendes said. "We’re looking forward to it."
Kristian Dyer is a reporter for MLSSoccer.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs. He can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012