Only two games into the 2021 season, the Chicago Fire are already being faced with big questions about the management of the team and the performances on the pitch. But since it’s still so early, this match against the New York Red Bulls could change things.
Before I get into the actual matchup, let’s first check the absences for either team. The Chicago Fire still have Kenneth Kronholm, Fabien Herbers, Elliot Collier, and Stanislav Ivanov out with long-term injuries, while Ignacio Aliseda has gone in and out of the “questionable” category. Aliseda had an appearance in the first game of the season, but missed the bench completely for the second match. The New York Red Bulls don’t really have injuries, but defender Tom Edwards is out due to COVID protocols and new signing Patryk Klimala is still waiting on his Visa.
Here are three things to watch out for in this game:
Continued Problems on the Road
Last week, I mentioned that it’s been a year and a half since the Chicago Fire won a real road game in the regular season. With a loss against Atlanta United, the Fire have continued to prove that maybe they just can’t win outside of Chicago. That’s a really big problem for a team who can barely perform at home either. Though, maybe the lack of performances on the road is just a symptom of the greater problem of generally not being a good team.
However, this game does appear “winnable” for the Fire, with the New York Red Bulls also very visibly struggling going into this season. While they have made some moves to strengthen themselves, those signings won’t be available for Red Bull just yet. Plus, Red Bulls’ recent history defending their home isn’t that good, with a big losing streak on their record during September of last season and their only home game this season a 2-1 loss to Sporting KC.
If there was ever a time to take advantage, it would be now.
Reading through the New York Red Bulls lineup, Chicago Fire fans might find a familiar name. A name that’s significant not because he played for the team, but notable because he never played for the Fire. Andrew Gutman is from Hinsdale, a southwest suburb of Chicago not too far away from the Fire’s old home of SeatGeek Stadium. Gutman came up through the Fire academy and was reportedly prepared to sign a homegrown contract with the club after graduating college at Indiana University, but for one reason or another he ended up not accepting a contract from the Fire.
Instead, Gutman signed with Celtic in Scotland and was later loaned back to America in the USL Championship. Eventually, the Fire traded his MLS rights to FC Cincinnati, who later saw them moved on to Atlanta United through the MLS Re-Entry Draft. Finally, earlier this year, Gutman was loaned to the Red Bulls.
How has he done since turning down the Fire? Not that bad, actually. While he didn’t do much with FC Cincy, his time in the USL Championship saw him score three goals, which is pretty good for a defender. And in the Red Bulls’ last game, Gutman scored another one, his first in MLS. Now he will face his hometown club.
One of the biggest issues that have been pointed about the Chicago Fire’s coaching from Raphael Wicky has been his choice so far to remain static with his lineups. There are two schools of thought on a coach who doesn’t change their lineup between games. First, by keeping the same group out there, you’re getting them more comfortable which will eventually get the lineup to work more efficiently. On the other hand, leaving your lineup unchanged can also be a signal for either a lack of depth or simply a concession that there’s no way to improve the squad any further.
Basically, a lot of analysts are leaning towards that second opinion, especially when the lineup seems incomplete. The reason why fans are calling for Mauricio Pineda to see the pitch aren’t just because he’s a homegrown player, but because he can make the team better. Especially when the past two games have been riddled with defensive errors that have cost the team goals.
Unfortunately, I don’t see Wicky doing anything different in this game and we may have to wait until some players return from injury to see if anything ever changes.
Chicago Fire (4-3-3): Bobby Shuttleworth; Boris Sekulic, Johan Kappelhof, Francisco Calvo, Jonathon Bornstein; Gaston Gimenez, Luka Stojanovic, Alvaro Medran; Przemyslaw Frankowski, Robert Beric, Chinonso Offor
New York Red Bulls (4-2-3-1): Carlos Coronel; Kyle Duncan, Aaron Long, Sean Nealis, Andrew Gutman; Youba Diarra, Sean Davis; Cristian Casseres Jr, Ben White, Caden Clark; Fabio
How To Watch
Saturday, May 1st, 12:00 PM CDT; At Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ, on WGN or online through the Chicago Fire website