The New York Red Bulls enter the state of Illinois knowing that a victory against the Chicago Fire on Sunday will nearly guarantee their second Supporters’ Shield in three years. However, New York has not tasted victory in Chicago since the year 2005.
In fact, the Red Bulls as an organization have never won in the Windy City. It was the New York/New Jersey Metro Stars that defeated the Fire 3-0 on May the 14th at Soldier Field. Since then, New York has gone 0-5-8 and boasts a -13 goal differential in the land of Lincoln.
However, the surprising fact is that since the year 2005 the Fire has had New York’s number both home and away. Chicago has had the upper hand against the Red Bulls by going 13-7-8 (W-L-D). The two clubs have already faced each other twice this season. Once at Red Bull Arena on September 11th and the once at Toyota Park on August 26th. Both games ended 3-2 in favor of the home team.
Regardless that the Red Bulls have clearly struggled against the Fire in Chicago, they will need to put that aside if they want to win the Supporters’ Shield. New York has already clinched the Eastern Conference, but at the moment they are in a heated race with FC Dallas for the Shield.
Both clubs are level on points with 57 each, but the Red Bulls sit in first place due to a superior goal differential. New York boast a +18 goal differential, which is six superior to Dalls' +12 goal differential.
Major League Soccer (MLS) has spiced up the Supporters’ Shield race by having both New York’s and Dallas’s match played simultaneously on the “#DecisionDay.” So no matter what, both teams will have to take care of their own business.
If the Red Bulls continue their bad streak at Chicago then Dallas only has to beat the San Jose Earthquakes at home to win the shield. However, at the moment New York is ninety minutes away from clinching home field advantage throughout the playoffs and earning the right to host the MLS Cup Final if they make it that far.
The midfield is where the Red Bulls can end their curse on Sunday. Dax McCarty and Sacha Kljestan will have to keep the offense rolling and never allow the Fire to build up momentum. Quick and accurate passes will push Chicago’s shaky defense that has given up 56 goals this season to the brink of collapsing. Then the Red Bulls' lethal strikers Bradley Wright-Phillips and Mike Grella are more than capable of punishing the Fire and putting the Red Bulls a step closer to securing home field advantage in the post-season.
However, the Red Bulls have to be cautious since the Fire is dead last in the East with 30 points. Regardless if Chicago wins or loses the game, they will finish as the worst club in the 2015 MLS regular season.
With that hanging over their heads, there is nothing Chicago has to lose, which makes them dangerous. Add on that the game is at home and it will present the Fire a perfect opportunity to send to their fans home with some sort of happiness after this long and deranged campaign.
Prediction: Chicago 0-4 New York
The Red Bulls with the Supporters’ Shield on the line will pull through and demolish the Fire and end the 10-year curse in the process.