MLS Playoffs Preview and Prediction: Chicago Fire vs New York Red Bulls

2017 MLS Cup Playoffs – Knockout Round: Chicago Fire vs New York Red Bulls

Toyota Park – Wednesday, October 25 – 20:30 ET (01:30 BST)

Match Odds: Chicago Fire 21/10 – Draw 5/2 – NY Red Bulls 23/10

Chicago Fire vs New York Red Bulls: Preview

The 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs are here. It all kicks off with the Chicago Fire hosting the New York Red Bulls in the first of four midweek Knockout Round games.

Both teams have reason for optimism heading into Wednesday’s game but only one side will remain in the playoffs come the end of play. This is expected to be the tightest of the four Knockout Round games, as the below projections highlight.

Chicago Fire deserve enormous praise for even reaching the postseason, let alone earning home-field advantage. They haven’t played a postseason game since 2012 and so you can expect a special atmosphere at Toyota Park.

Most the focus in the build-up to the game will be on Dax McCarty. The midfielder joined the Fire from the Red Bulls before the start of the campaign and will now be looking to get past his former side for a place in the Conference Semifinals.

Embed from Getty ImagesThey have the 2017 Golden Boot winner in Nemanja Nikolic. The Serbian striker netted 24 goals and played every single regular season game in his debut season. A strong showing in the playoffs would give the Fire a great chance at success.

The worry for the home side is that their form has been anything but solid heading into the playoffs. They’ve posted a 3-2-1 record over their last six and lost 3-0 at Houston on the final day of the regular season. But their strong home form still makes them narrow favourites here.

The New York Red Bulls had been stuck in sixth place for what seemed like an eternity. They didn’t lock down a playoff spot as soon as they’d have hoped. But challenges from rivals faded and they’ve been able to prepare for the postseason for a couple of weeks.

Embed from Getty ImagesJesse Marsch’s men ended the regular season with a 2-1 win at DC United. They have only lost one of their last five and will arrive at Chicago looking to keep it tight and hit them on the break.

These two sides met twice during the regular season. The Red Bulls won 2-1 at Red Bull Arena early on in the season, before they drew 1-1 at Toyota Park in early September.

Chicago Fire vs New York Red Bulls: Team News

The big question mark heading into Wednesday’s game is the fitness of Bastian Schweinsteiger. He hasn’t started a game in almost two months but is officially listed as ‘questionable’. The Fire will definitely be without Jorge Bava, John Goossens, Daniel Johnson, Christian Dean and Michael De Leeuw.

The Red Bulls have four players ruled out for Wednesday’s game. Gideon Baah, Mike Grella, Connor Lade and Aurelien Collin are all sidelined through injury.

Chicago Fire vs New York Red Bulls: Key Points

Chicago Fire’s last five: L/W/D/W/L

New York Red Bulls’ last five: D/L/W/D/W

Key Stat: Chicago only lost two of their 17 home games during the regular season. They outscored their opponents 44-14 in that time.

Key Player: Dax McCarty – The combative midfielder will be the centre of attention on Wednesday night. His job will be to disrupt his former teammate Sacha Kljestan from controlling the game. If he succeeds, it’s more than likely that Chicago will advance.

Embed from Getty ImagesChicago Fire vs New York Red Bulls: Prediction

Chicago Fire 1-2* (AET) New York Red Bulls – This should be the closest of all four Knockout Round games. The Fire are a force at home and will be relishing the prospect of a playoff game for the first time in five years. But the Red Bulls are experienced at this level and know how to get the job done. This looks poised to go beyond 90 minutes but we see the Red Bulls as the more likely to advance, with this one looking like it could go all the to penalties.


MLS Fantasy 2016: What you need to succeed

By Jamie Dawe

Every year the MLS Fantasy minefield blows up anyone who hasn’t fully considered their team selection or their formation. Many people watch their team slide down the leaderboard for the first month while they helplessly panic behind their computer screens. However, there are a few key things you ought to know before you set up your team for this year’s competition.

The New Rules

There are now only 16 players on your roster (rather than 18), but each team still has the same $120.0 budget, meaning you can fill your side with more stars than ever in 2016.

Points are now scored for players who suffer four fouls in a game, for every 35 passes that are completed with 85% accuracy and also for every four shots taken in a game. In addition, defenders and defensive midfielders can score points for clearances, interceptions, tackles and blocks. This will make players like Osvaldo Alonso ($8.5) and Matias Laba ($7.5) even more attractive propositions.

Embed from Getty Images

The Roster

Having two goalkeepers gives you room to have a week-in-week-out starting goalkeeper and also a young up-and-coming ‘keeper who may get game time later in the season. I wouldn’t recommend spending anymore than $11.0 of your budget on the two goalkeeper positions.

Having five defenders gives you the opportunity to splash out on a back five if you’re the kind of manager who likes banking on reliable centre-backs who rack up clean sheets, interceptions and the odd headed goal. Many prefer to use just three defenders, with attacking full-backs becoming increasingly popular too.

The limit of five midfielders now means that building a successful five-man midfield is significantly harder to achieve. However, the increased budget per player could mean that a spend of $45.0 on your midfield may not be terminal.

Four strikers gives you the chance to have at least one low priced striker to make room elsewhere for a big golden boot challenger. Cheap options like Dominic Oduro ($7.5) and Tesho Akindele ($7.5) could become great investments for the season.

The Formation

There’s only one formation I can recommend for the first weeks of the fantasy season and that’s a 3-5-2. In the unpredictable and occasionally maddening league which is Major League Soccer, the only position you can truly rely on is that of the central midfielder. Regardless of the match, quality of the team or the scoreline – passing bonuses are sure to be gained and so I see players like Dax McCarty ($9.0) and Tony Tchani ($8.0) as safe bets for early points. You could also try a 3-4-3 or 4-4-2 if one of your strikers/defenders is likely to play in a midfield role. In my view, any other formation would be complete anarchism before the tone for the season has been set.

Embed from Getty Images

The Must Haves

The increased budget per player has opened up teams to have three or four massive stars in their starting XI. This is why players like last year’s top points scorer Sebastian Giovinco ($11.5) are definitely worth having in your team for the start of the season. Another player along these lines is Ethan Finlay ($10.5), who will also benefit from the new passing bonus points.

However, this doesn’t mean that the most expensive players are always going to be the highest scoring. Strikers like Innocent Emeghara ($9.0) and Maximiliano Urruti ($8.5) are sure to get more playing time this season and they are both proven goalscorers. In defence, Dallas’ No. 1 Jesse Gonzalez ($6.0) might be worth an investment as FC Dallas have four home games in their first six. This home start makes Zach Loyd ($7.5) a steal at this value. On the cheaper side, Josh Saunders ($5.0) may suddenly have a less porous defensive line in front of him as NYCFC have dramatically bolstered their defensive options this offseason. Four home games in the first five won’t hurt either.

The Risks

A few players picked in this year’s SuperDraft may go straight into the starting lineup of some MLS sides. For example, Joshua Yaro ($6.0) and Brandon Vincent ($5.0) are bound to get plenty of playing time. Jordan Morris ($8.5) joining Seattle Sounders was possibly the biggest deal of the offseason and it’s anyone’s guess whether he’ll hit the ground running, or whether he’ll take more time to progress. The Colorado Rapids’ biggest offseason signing was Shkelzen Gashi ($9.0), who had been the top scorer in the Swiss Super League for the last two seasons. Whether he can single-handedly turn around the Rapids’ dreadful scoring record, I don’t know. The Rapids also have talented defender/midfielder Marlon Hairston ($5.0) returning from injury, but he might not be thrown straight back into the Starting XI from the outset.

The No-No’s

DC United goalkeeper Bill Hamid ($6.0) will be out for at least the first three months of the season and should be ignored. MLS Cup winners Portland have a new left back in Chris Klute ($7.0) but he could easily miss the first games of the season with a knee injury. Nigel De Jong ($9.0) is a new presence in the LA Galaxy midfield, but he is not known for his scoring exploits and is rather more known for racking up yellow cards, so I personally would wait and see if the new scoring system favours him. Also, for his price and his position as a forward in a fantasy squad Giovanni Dos Santos ($11.0) is probably worth a miss until he settles into his new role on the right side of in the Galaxy side.

Embed from Getty Images

The Best Bench Warmers

Cameron Porter ($5.0) should gain significant value if he gets the playing time he was in line to receive before his horrific injury at the beginning of the 2015 season. Along these same lines, Andre Blake ($5.0) could be a starting ‘keeper for Philadelphia this year – and if he’s given the chance – he could become the best bargain ‘keeper in the league. Hadji Barry ($5.0) could also be given the chance to prove himself in a faster, more fluent Orlando City attack – and if he plays to his potential, his price will skyrocket very quickly.

This is just a brief overview of what can be an extremely in-depth game. However, if I were to tell you anymore of my secrets, there would be no point in picking your own team…

All I can do is wish you luck and may the fantasy force be with you!

Who do you think is an absolute must-have in MLS Fantasy 2016?

MLS Playoff Preview and Prediction: New York Red Bulls vs DC United

Competition: MLS Playoffs (Eastern Conference Semifinal Second Leg) – New York Red Bulls vs. DC United

Venue: Red Bull Arena – Sunday, November 8 – 15:00 ET (20:00 GMT)

Match Odds: New York Red Bulls 4/9 – Draw 7/2 – DC United 6/1

Match Preview

New York Red Bulls welcome DC United to Red Bull Arena on Sunday afternoon for the second leg of their MLS Eastern Conference semifinal.

The Red Bulls returned home from DC last weekend with an excellent 1-0 win that puts them firmly in the driving seat in this tie, knowing they’ve scored a crucial away goal.

Dax McCarty’s headed finish following Sacha Kljestan’s floated free-kick in the 72nd minute gave New York the advantage, and Jesse Marsch will be confident his side can see out the job on home soil.

DC United vs New York Red Bulls Dax McCarty

The victory against DC was the perfect way for the Red Bulls to follow on from sealing the Supporters’ Shield title, showing they mean business and that they haven’t lost their focus – it also marked their third consecutive win.

DC United looked tired and slightly bereft of ideas as they struggled to break down a strong Red Bulls team – not even their usually reliable home form could help them salvage anything from the first leg.

Ben Olsen may be tempted to send his players out with orders to attack straight from the off in the hope of creating a realistic chance to progress, although that’s a tactic that could play into the hands of a New York side so dangerous on the counter-attack.

DC United vs New York Red Bulls Sacha Kljestan Perry Kitchen

DC have lost seven of their last ten games, so it may pay for them to try and keep things tight and hope they can pinch a goal. It’s a tough task but if they have any aspirations of winning the MLS Cup, then now is the time to really stand up and be counted.

New York Red Bulls haven’t lost any of the four meetings with DC in 2015 (W3, D1) and the last time they lost at home to DC was in December 2012.

Team News

New York Red Bulls will be without regular centre-back, Damien Perrinelle, for the rest of the season after he suffered a knee injury in the first leg. Ronald Zubar will be expected to deputise in his absence. Defender Chris Duvall (leg) and striker Anatole Abang (hamstring) both remain out.

DC United have doubts over the fitness of midfielders Chris Pontius (hamstring) and Michael Farfan (undisclosed), as well as defender Sean Franklin (achilles). All three could miss this crucial second leg, while Chris Korb (knee), Davy Arnaud (concussion) and Jared Jeffrey (face) remain out.

Key Points

New York Red Bulls’ last five: W/L/W/W/W

DC United’s last five: W/W/L/W/L

Key Stat: New York Red Bulls have scored at least one goal in each of their last 24 games.

Key Player: Mike Grella – He has perhaps been somewhat an unsung hero in 2015. With great performances from the likes of BWP, Lloyd Sam and Sacha Kljestan taking the limelight, it’s also worth noting how crucial Grella has been. He’s scored nine goals and made seven assists this season, making him a vital cog in the Red Bulls machine.

DC United vs New York Red Bulls Mike Grella

Score Prediction

New York Red Bulls 2-1 DC United – You can’t help feeling that New York Red Bulls have one foot in the conference final, although there is still hard work to be done. DC United certainly face an uphill struggle, but they will throw everything they have at this game as there’s nothing to lose. Ultimately though, the Red Bulls should see it through.

Red Bulls Revolution: The Kljestan Effect

As the New York Red Bulls look to build on their Supporters’ Shield win by claiming a first ever MLS Cup title, Louis East looks at how Sacha Kljestan has inspired his team to glory in his first year back in MLS.

When Sacha Kljestan landed back on U.S. soil following his switch to the New York Red Bulls from Belgian giants Anderlecht in January, few predicted he would outshine the likes of Frank Lampard, Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley as one of Major League Soccer’s outstanding central midfielders in 2015.

But after scoring eight goals and picking up 14 assists (fourth most in MLS in 2015), Kljestan has proved to be one of the league’s most dynamic midfield assets and his performances have helped the Red Bulls enjoy plenty of success this year.

When head coach Jesse Marsch joined the Red Bulls in early January, rumours immediately began pouring out of New York that Kljestan was a key transfer target, following a turbulent offseason that saw Designated Player’s Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill leave the club.

Marsch, who enjoyed four seasons playing alongside Kljestan at Chivas from 2006 to 2009, clearly knew that the powerful midfielder strengths and decided he would help transform the team’s fortunes following a mixed 2014 campaign. He wasn’t wrong.

Embed from Getty Images

Only seven players contributed to more goals in the 2015 regular season than Kljestan (22), with only one other central midfielder registering more goals and assists as Benny Feilhaber ended with a total of 25 combined. That puts into perspective how good Kljestan has been.

Let’s also not forget this is a player who joined the league after already playing 21 games for Anderlecht in the first four months of the Belgian side’s 2014-15 season. Tiredness proved to be no concern whatsoever as Kljestan started 33 of the Red Bulls’ 34 games – only Felipe and Luis Robles started all of them.

Despite playing 58 matches in just over 12 months, Kljestan looks as fresh as anyone else entering the MLS Cup Playoffs. He was the best player on the field against DC United on Sunday and it was his perfect free-kick to Dax McCarty that led to the winning goal.

DC United vs New York Red Bulls Sacha Kljestan Perry Kitchen

New York now take a huge away goal into the home leg at Red Bull Arena on Sunday and are expected to sail through to the Conference Finals.

His relationship with McCarty in midfield is one of the best in Major League Soccer. It’s hardly a surprise given the fact the two have been alongside each other since they entered the game professionally nearly ten years ago.

Kljestan was taken with the fifth overall pick of the 2006 MLS SuperDraft by Chivas USA before McCarty immediately followed as Dallas used their sixth overall selection to pick the tenacious tackler.

DC United vs New York Red Bulls Dax McCarty

They experienced different career paths but have wound up next to each other in one of the league’s most effective teams. A first ever MLS Cup title would represent the quality of their partnership and few could argue with the fact the Red Bulls’ have been the league’s most solid unit in 2015.

The club will now be preparing for Sunday’s huge Conference Semifinal second leg with DC. With Kljestan enjoying some of the best form of his season (one goal and three assists in his last three games), it’s hard to see the 2015 Supporters’ Shield winners losing.

How important is Sacha Kljestan to the New York Red Bulls? 

New York Red Bulls take series advantage with vital win at DC United

The 2015 MLS Cup Playoff Conference Semifinals got underway at RFK Stadium on Sunday with Major League Soccer’s oldest rivals going head-to-head in the first leg of their key Eastern Conference semi.

It was the New York Red Bulls who prevailed, beating DC United in the first-leg of the conference semifinal for the second-straight season, but away from home this time around with a 1-0 victory also giving them a potentially crucial away goal.

It wasn’t a game that offered many clear chances but New York took their opportunity when Sacha Kljestan’s excellent free-kick was headed in by an unmarked Dax McCarty at the back post.

The goal came from one of the Red Bulls’ nine shots on target and they were probably deserved winners, especially if looking at chance creation.

DC United finished the match without registering a single shot on target. While another worry for head coach Ben Olsen will be the fact that their passing accuracy was just 55%.

DC United vs New England Revolution Ben Olsen

They came into the game off the back of Wednesday’s 2-1 home win over New England but the whole team looked fatigued from that match, despite a bright opening to the game.

The result saw the Red Bulls win away at DC for the first time in MLS Playoff history. They have beaten their Atlantic Cup rivals in each of the last three meetings at Red Bull Arena and look to have one foot in the Eastern Conference final.

The return leg will be played at Red Bull Arena next Sunday. The winner of the tie over the two legs will face either Montreal Impact or Columbus Crew in the Eastern final.

What did you make of Sunday’s game? Did the Red Bulls deserve to win? Can DC still make it through?



New York Red Bulls turn down huge trade offer from Orlando City for Dax McCarty – report

The New York Red Bulls have seen a few faces leave in recent weeks, but Dax McCarty will not be the next as they have rejected Orlando City‘s advances for the midfielder despite a sizeable trade offer, according to Big Apple Soccer‘s Kristian Dyer.

Thierry Henry has hung up his boots and left the Red Bulls, while Jamison Olave was traded back to Real Salt Lake but the disbanding of the squad didn’t continue with McCarty’s departure to his native Florida.

Orlando City reportedly offered the Red Bulls “a hefty allocation amount and multiple draft picks” for the 27-year-old holding midfielder.

Embed from Getty Images

The allocation amount is believed to be in the region of $225,000, and by also turning down multiple draft picks, the Red Bulls have shown just how highly they value McCarty.

He has been in New York for three-and-a-half years now and while he remains happy, he wants to win the MLS Cup with the team before thinking of a move elsewhere.

I’m really happy in New York. Not necessarily happy with the way things have ended but I think we’ve been pretty successful the last couple of years,” he told Big Apple Soccer earlier this month.

“That’s what I’d like to be judged on. I want to win. We won the Supporters Shield but ultimately what we want to win is the MLS Cup and I want to do that here in New York.”

Embed from Getty Images

Orlando’s interest is understandable. McCarty has made at least 30 appearances for the past three seasons and is a consistently solid defensive midfielder.

While the Lions have options in that department already, they could really do with a more experienced head to play alongside the likes of Amobi Okugo, Estrella and Darwin Ceren.

Though that player doesn’t look like it will be McCarty as he is too valuable to the Red Bulls and Orlando will need to search elsewhere if they want to bring another midfielder in.

How important is Dax McCarty to the New York Red Bulls? Do Orlando need another defensive midfielder?