Fire-Red Bulls Preview
Gerhard Struber insists the New York Red Bulls "are in a good shape" heading into Saturday's clash with Chicago Fire, despite beginning the new campaign with back-to-back defeats.
The Red Bulls followed up a 2-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City on the opening weekend with a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Los Angeles Galaxy last time out.
It is the first time since 2016 they have opened a season with successive defeats since 2016, but Struber - who has been in charge for five months - is not panicking just yet.
"We spoke about the loss to Galaxy and the direction we want," he said. "There are some moments where we have to improve but right now I think we are in a good shape.
"We made further steps in our principles and that's a good feeling. But we are a professional team and need the right results. Right now we are not getting the results we want."
The Fire are themselves winless after two rounds of fixtures, drawing 2-2 with New England Revolution - a game they trailed 2-0 - before losing 3-1 at Atlanta United.
Raphael Wicky has had to contend with a number of injury problems, but the Swiss coach is not looking for any excuses ahead of this trip to the Red Bull Arena.
"It's not what you want," he said. "It's not what you wish, obviously. I told you from the beginning, I'm very happy with the roster when everyone is there.
"We have a very good and very competitive roster. With all these injuries obviously that hurts a bit, but it doesn't make sense if I complain every day or think about it every day.
"I try to work with the players that we have. I hope the other guys come back as soon as possible so that the competition within the team gets more and more again."
New York Red Bulls - Aaron Long
The Red Bulls made a string of defensive errors against LA Galaxy and simply have to tighten up at the back if they are to get off the mark with their first points of the season. Struber is likely to revert to a flat-back four and there will be pressure on Long, who has more than 100 league appearances for the club, to keep the defense nice and organized.
Chicago Fire - Luka Stojanovic
The Serbian striker brought an end to Brad Guzan's run of shutouts with what proved to be a consolation goal in the loss to Atlanta United last time out. That made it two goals in as many matches this season - the last Fire player to score in their first three games was Diego Chaves in 2011.
- The Red Bulls have lost only two of their last 12 matches against Chicago (W7 D3) dating back to September 2015.
- New York has won four of the five meetings at Red Bull Arena in that time (L1) and has scored in their last seven at home against the Fire.
- NYRB have not started with three straight losses in Major League Soccer since 1998.
- The Fire are winless in eight straight matches dating back to the end of last season (D5 L3), despite scoring in every match in that time. The Fire are the last team to do this as well, going nine straight games scoring and not winning from October 2013 to May 2014.
- Andrew Gutman's goal against LA Galaxy last week was his first in MLS in his 31st appearance. He scored with what is so far his only shot on target in the competition.
Updated April 30, 2021