BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Thierry Henry and Juan Pablo Angel will get their chances. That is inevitable, and the Fire back four knows it.
But how many chances will the Red Bulls’ dangerous strike duo get? How many cracks at goal will the two Designated Players have Sunday night at Toyota Park? For their part, the Chicago are hoping that the pair’s opportunities will be limited.
“They know how the game can change in a matter of seconds,” Fire defender C.J. Brown said of Henry and Ángel. “We just have to be focused and in tune the whole game and limit their chances as much as possible.”
How will the Fire go about limiting those chances? According to Brown, Chicago can’t let Henry and Ángel get the ball, a process that must start with the Fire’s own strikers.
“It starts with the forwards,” Brown said. “If they can put pressure on [New York’s] backs so that they don’t play nice balls to their forwards, and if our midfielders are smashing down when it gets to [New York’s] forwards, then it becomes difficult for them. I think, overall, we’ve done that fairly well all year, so we’re going to hope to continue that.”
When Henry and Ángel get their touches, Brown said Chicago ideally want them to have their backs to the goal.
“You don’t want [Henry and Ángel] to face you dribbling,” Brown said. “The advantage is for them then.”
Brown added that Chicago will have to establish a fluid strategy if they are to effectively deal with New York’s forward tandem.
“You can’t sit there and say, ‘Alright, I’m just going to be tight to them the whole game,’ because both of them will figure out a way to get loose and make that opportunity,” Brown said. “If you focus only one way on them, it won’t work.”
But Chicago can’t afford to focus solely on the Red Bulls’ striking tandem, not when New York have plenty of other attacking options in midfielders Joel Lindpere, Mac Kandji and Dane Richards.
Fire defensive midfielder Logan Pause thinks particularly highly of Lindpere, who scored the lone goal in the Red Bulls 1-0 defeat of the Fire on March 27.
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“I rate him really highly,” Pause said of the Estonian playmaker. “I think he might be one of the most underrated players in the league. He’s dynamic and very good with the ball.”
All things considered, the Fire are excited for the tough challenge that awaits them on Sunday.
“We’re excited about where we’re at,” Pause said. “We’re coming off a big win, getting guys healthy and getting [DPs] Freddie [Ljungberg] and Nery [Castillo] to join our team. This is a great time for our team and this organization and we’re looking forward to Sunday.”
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.