5 Things to Watch: Red Bulls Head to Chicago Looking to Earn First Win of the Season

We’re just three days away from the Red Bulls’ match against the Chicago Fire this Sunday at Toyota Park. Both teams are entering the match looking for their first wins of the season, so it’s sure to be a true battle on the pitch. Here are five things to watch for leading up to Sunday’s 3:00 PM match, which will be televised live on MSG (pre-game show at 2:30 PM) and UniMas.

1) Some recent history between Eastern Conference foes.

Last season, the Red Bulls and Fire split the season series.

On April 7, the Red Bulls travelled to Chicago and were defeated 3-1. It was the Fire’s first win of the 2013 season and Jamison Olave scored the lone goal for the Red Bulls on an acrobatic scissor kick.

The last regular season meeting between the Red Bulls and Fire was a 5-2 Red Bulls victory on October 27 at Red Bull Arena in the last game of the 2013 regular season. In front of a sold-out crowd, the Red Bulls clinched their first-ever MLS Supporters’ Shield trophy. Five different Red Bulls scored in the win, while Chicago was eliminated from qualification for the MLS Cup Playoffs.

Sunday’s matchup is the first of three meetings between the two clubs this season. The Red Bulls and Fire will also play on May 10 at Red Bull Arena and August 10 at Toyota Park.

2) Which team will earn its first win of the season?

Last week, the Red Bulls were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw against the Colorado Rapids in the team’s regular season home opener. Thierry Henry scored in the 57th minute on a goal that was nominated for MLS Goal of the Week honors. It was Henry’s first goal of the season in his first game of the season. The tally was his 42nd regular season goal for the Red Bulls since joining the club in 2010, and it put him in sole possession of second in club history in that category. Juan Pablo Angel leads with 58.

Colorado would end up tying the game on a controversial penalty call in the 72nd minute. The referee ruled that Jamison Olave committed a hard foul on Rapids forward Marvin Chavez in the box. Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles guessed correctly on Vicente Sanchez’s penalty kick, but couldn’t reach the Colorado midfielder’s shot, which found its way into the lower right corner of the goal.

“We have to go back to the film next week and do better because it wasn’t obviously enough to win the game today,” Henry said after the game against Colorado. “But yeah, we were in that situation last year. We wanted to start better, but we obviously, as you saw, didn’t. It’s going to be a tough game against Chicago [Fire] next week, so we have to prepare for that.”

The Fire come into the match after starting the season on the road with a 3-2 loss at Chivas USA and then tying the Portland Timbers, 1-1, last Sunday. Chicago will host New York in its home opener Sunday and will certainly be motivated to get the three points.

3) Who will be selected to the Starting XI Sunday?

Lloyd Sam has played well and has earned the praise of his coach, Mike Petke, and teammates as well. Will he and the other 10 players remain in the starting lineup? Sam has started both Red Bulls games this season and has assists on both of the Red Bulls goals scored this season. Last week, a cross from Sam found Thierry Henry near the back post and he scored a terrific diving header before a great celebration. Henry and defender Jamison Olave both made their first starts of the season last week against Colorado after not playing in the season opener in Vancouver on March 8, while Jonny Steele, Peguy Luyindula and Eric Alexander all came off the bench as substitutes.

Here was the lineup Petke put out for the home opener last Saturday at Red Bull Arena:

(4-4-2 formation): Luis Robles, Richard Eckersley, Jamison Olave, Armando, Roy Miller, Lloyd Sam, Tim Cahill, Dax McCarty, Bobby Convey, Bradley Wright-Phillips, Thierry Henry

4) Playing the 2013 MLS MVP

The Chicago Fire boast last season’s MLS MVP, forward Mike Magee. Magee is expected to feature in the match on Sunday according to reports, making his 2014 regular season debut.

The Chicago native made an immediate impact with his hometown club. In his first seven matches in a Fire uniform, Magee tallied seven goals in all competitions and won the June Player of the Month Award. Before joining the team, the Fire had started the season 2-7-2. Magee helped turn the team around and go 12-6-5 from June 2 to the end of the season.

Last season, Magee led the Fire in goals with 15, shots (78), and shots on goal (37). He also tallied four assists while playing in a Fire uniform. Magee was the runner up for the MLS Golden Boot Award, scoring 21 goals last season between playing for the Galaxy and Fire. Ex-Whitecaps FC forward Camilo Sanvezzo scored 22 goals and won the award.

The Fire will be missing speedy midfielder Patrick Nyarko, as the Chicago player will be serving a one-game suspension for a red card picked up against Portland last weekend.

5) New head coach in Chicago

After starting the season against two rookie head coaches, the Red Bulls will play the Fire, who is led by a veteran Frank Yallop. Yallop was named Head Coach and Director of Soccer on October 31, 2013. He joined the Fire with two MLS Cup championships, in 2001 and 2003 as the head coach of the San Jose Earthquakes, and two MLS Coach of the Year honors.

He was most recently the head coach of the San Jose Earthquakes from 2008-2013. In his combined 11 seasons as a MLS head coach, Yallop compiled a 117-107-84 overall record and has the fifth most wins as a head coach in MLS history.