They are a team decimated by injuries, in desperate need of reinforcements and with just one win of their first five games — four of which were at home.
The last time the teams played, The Red Bulls crushed the Fire 4-0 in the Eastern Conference knockout round. Bradley Wright-Phillips and Sacha Kljestan scored inside of 12 minutes and Danny Royer and Gonzalo Veron struck in the final 20 minutes.
Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. ET matchup at Red Bull Arena will be the first time they meet since that result last October in Bridgeview, Ill.
“We know it’s a quality team, we know that it will be personal with them after knocking them out of the playoffs,” Marsch said. “We have to be fully prepared for a really tough match.”
While the Fire (1-3-1, 4 points) are floundering, the Red Bulls (3-2-0, 9 points) are flying — especially at home, where they’ve won all three of their league matches by outscoring opponents 10-1. Including their run to the Concacaf Champions League semifinals, the Red Bulls are unbeaten in six consecutive matches in Harrison, N.J., with a plus-14 goal differential.
“It is awesome the record that we have until now at home,” defender Michael Murillo said. “I think it will be a difficult game since they will come out to get a result, but we have to work for it.”
Murillo is part of a backline that hasn’t allowed many scoring opportunities in league play. Take away the aberration of a 4-3 loss at Orlando City SC, the Red Bulls have conceded just twice — both coming on set pieces, with Albert Rusnak’s penalty kick the difference in a 1-0 loss at Real Salt Lake and Jeisson Vargas’ stunning free-kick equalizer for the Impact a week ago.
“Solidifying our backline and knowing that we are continuing to get clean sheets and keeping teams off the scoresheet has been really important for us,” midfielder Tyler Adams said. “So now it is just getting all the attacking plays right, being a little bit sharper in the final third, but we know the goals are going to come and as you saw against Montreal, we created many more chances than we scored actually.”
Since conceding eight goals in their first three games, The Fire have moved Bastian Schweinsteiger into a sweeper role and become a more difficult team to break down. The only Chicago goal conceded during the last two weeks came on a ball off the head of Zlatan Ibrahimovic when the Fire somehow lost the superstar Swede for a second in the LA Galaxy’s 1-0 win.
“It will be an interesting one,” Adams said. “We know anytime a team comes to Red Bull Arena they’re going to put up a good challenge for us. Obviously with Dax [McCarty] there as well now, they have some insight to what we do. But our game plan won’t change. We’ll go into the game with the same mindset and we’re just going to just try to go out there and score goals as always.”