Saturday, April 21, 2018

Red Bulls Burned By Chicago Fire

Chicago celebrates a late goal. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Chicago Fire outlasted the Red Bulls 2-1 on Saturday afternoon at Red Bull Arena.

The Red Bulls, who dropped to 3-3-0 with nine points, suffered their first loss at home this season. It snapped their 11-match unbeaten streak (7-0-4) at Red Bull Arena in league play.

The star of the game was Chicago goalkeeper Richard Sanchez, who made 21 saves, as the Red Bulls poured in 22 shots, including 11 on target.

The Red Bulls' first big chance came in the 26th minute when Kaku came down the left side of the field and tried to go short side on Sanchez, who flicked it away.

In the 29th minute, Chicago's Elliot Collier fired one in from just outside the box, which Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles knocked away out of bounds, giving Chicago a corner kick.

On the corner, Red Bulls efender Aaron Long headed the ball back to the top of the box, right to Chicago's Aleksander Katai, who fired a rocket from 20 yards out, to the far right post to give the Fire a 1-0 lead in the 30th minute.

Sanchez might have had the play of the game in the 35th minute, when he made a save on a big shot by Daniel Royer, and then the ball went to Kaku outside the box, and he stopped that chance as well.
in the 42nd minute, Katai had a golden opportunity at his second goal of the day when he got a feed at the top of the box from Nemanja Nikolic, and Katai shanked it to the left.

In extra time of the first half, the Red Bulls had a solid chance to tie the game, as Bradley Wright-Phillips used a bicycle kick from the left side, and as it was going wide, Florian Valot attempted to kick it in, but he came up short. That wound up being the last play of the first half.

In the second half, 62nd minute, Royer fired one off the crossbar, and it ricocheted to Kaku, who had a good chance from the left side, and Sanchez saved it.

In the 68th minute, Katai got loose in the Red Bulls box, and Robles took him down from behind, resulting in a penalty kick.

Nikolic took the penalty kick and fired it to the left to give Chicago a commanding 2-0 edge.

It looked like the Red Bulls got a goal a couple minutes later, when Royer swooped in from the right 
side, but he was ruled offside.

In the 81st minute, the Red Bulls scored off a corner kick.

Sean Davis took the kick, and the ball was loose inside the six-yard box, and Bradley Wright-Phillips was right there to redirect the ball back in the net to cut the deficit to 2-1.

This was the fifth goal of the season for Wright-Phillips, who has now tallied a goal in back-to-back matches. BWP increased his career league goals to 91. Across all competitions, Wright-Phillips sits with 108 to his name.

That was the last big chance for the Red Bulls, who went down despite major advantages in shots, 22-4, shots on goal, 11-3, corners, 7-4 and possession, 62.8 percent to 37.2 percent.

One of the keys for Chicago in the second half was that they moved German international Bastian Schweinsteiger to the center back spot, and for the most part, it was hard for the Red Bulls to set up or get comfortable in Chicago's end.

Bastian Schweinsteiger (center), with the Red Bulls' Bradley Wright-Phillips nearby, waiting for a long ball to come down in Chicago's end. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Fire is now 2-3-1, with seven points, on the season.

Red Bulls Head Coach Jesse Marsch said of why his team came up short, including the role Schweinsteiger played in the game, "Yeah, I think a number of things. Chicago should take playing against us personally, right and I get that. Like when you get knocked out, when you've had challenges against certain teams, then it builds more competitive fire. So they came out and they won a lot of duels in the first half, aerial duels, tackles. They fought, they battled, and then they caused trouble on our back line.

"You know, we're trying to build more into our team with the ball. We're trying to build more into making our team better here as we go along, and I would describe today as a little bit of us trying to do some more things to move ourselves along, and then not quite being effective enough at it, and then we wind up going down one, down two, and then we start to, then we have to chase the game.

"So in some ways, it's very normal, because we've had to, you know, accelerate our team in a lot of ways, and then I've said this: We've skipped steps along the way, so we are not quite what we need to be, which is normal for me, and now we've got to find ways to look at things carefully, get better, work on things in training, and we'll have the opportunity to do that. We'll have more and more regular training weeks coming up in the next couple months, and the key now is for us to get better and better every week.

"I would argue that this was similar to what first half looked like against Montréal (last Saturday, a 3-1 Red Bulls win), you know, which is lack of urgency, lack of sharpness, lack of clarity in terms of how to be effective with the ball and aggressive to get at the other team. We probably created a few more chances in that game, but I think Chicago is a better team than their record.

"So you know, in the end, we don't look the way we want tonight, and we're going to find ways to improve on it."

Marsch said of Chicago being the more desperate team, "I even talked about some of their quotes in the press, their coach, their players, and we weren't up for it. We weren't up for it. We thought that the game was going to be about passing and football, and it was more about like a team that's desperate; that needs points; that has a point to prove, and they showed it. So, you know, good for them.

"But our little bit naiveté and inability to understand what we were in for meant that on the day, we came in second most of the day."

The Red Bulls will head out west for their next match at the LA Galaxy on Saturday, April 28.

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