After playing two straight games on the road against the Columbus Crew and FC Dallas, the Red Bulls will look to continue their hot play at home against the Chicago Fire on Saturday evening. Here are five things to watch for on Saturday evening as the Red Bulls look to move into sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference when they battle the Fire at 7:00 PM at Red Bull Arena.
1. The Red Bulls battle for first place
The Red Bulls enter Saturday’s match against Chicago in a three-way tie for first place in the Eastern Conference with Sporting Kansas City and the New England Revolution. This season, the Red Bulls have taken 14 points from 10 games. Sporting Kansas City will be on the road on Saturday to take on the Montreal Impact, who are at the bottom of the table in the Eastern Conference. New England will play host to the Seattle Sounders, the top team in the Western Conference and all of MLS. Will the Red Bulls pick up three points to stay at the top of the table in the Eastern Conference?
2. BWP continues to have the hot feet for New York
Last Sunday at FC Dallas, the Red Bulls won on the road in the Texas heat. FC Dallas played down a man for most of the match after Je-Vaughn Watson was ejected. Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles stopped a penalty kick attempt en route to his second shutout of the season. Thierry Henry played in his 100th career MLS game and it took the Red Bulls just one goal to secure the victory. Who scored the goal? Red Bulls forward Bradley Wright-Phillips, of course.
For Wright-Phillips, it was his team-leading sixth goal of the season, his fifth goal in the last three games, and he is now in third place in the MLS Golden Boot race. With five of the six Red Bulls goals scored in the previous three matches, will his magic touch continue on Saturday against Chicago?
3. All-Star play from Luis Robles
Robles, who leads the league in saves with 41, has been consistent for the Red Bulls since the start of the season and continues to get better each week. On Sunday, Robles earned his second shutout of the season, and second in three games. After Red Bulls midfielder Tim Cahill took down FC Dallas midfielder Danny Garcia, Robles had to face his sixth penalty kick of the year. Blas Perez stepped up and fired a shot at net, but Robles was there to dive to his right and punch the ball over the net.
After the match, Cahill spoke about his PK giveaway and Robles: "I was disappointed with the penalty that I gave away. But that's what you've got teammates for. Luis has been outstanding, and I thank him loads.”
4. The Red Bulls’ unbeaten run at home
New York is unbeaten in its last 13 (9-0-4) games at home with its last defeat coming on June 1, 2013 against Vancouver Whitecaps FC, a 2-1 loss. This season, the Red Bulls are 2-0-2 at Red Bull Arena and 42-10-16 all-time in regular season play. The last time Chicago visited Red Bull Arena was on October 27, the last day of the 2013 regular season. The Red Bulls defeated the Fire, 5-2, eliminating them from playoff contention. With the win, the Red Bulls secured the 2013 MLS Supporters’ Shield championship. Since opening in 2010, Red Bull Arena has always been a tough place for opposing teams to play. Will the Red Bulls’ unbeaten run at home continue?
5. Will Petke keep the lineup the same?
Last Sunday, Cahill returned to the starting lineup for the first time since March 30 vs. Chivas USA and played 61 minutes before being subbed off for midfielder Peguy Luyindula, who was previously in place in the XI.
Here is the starting lineup Petke went with for Sunday’s match at FC Dallas:
Luis Robles, Kosuke Kimura, Armando, Jamison Olave, Roy Miller, Lloyd Sam, Dax McCarty, Tim Cahill, Eric Alexander, Bradley Wright-Phillips, Thierry Henry
The Red Bulls are currently unbeaten in their last four games (3-0-1). Could this be the winning lineup Petke will stick with going forward?