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.