Dax McCarty on beating the Red Bulls at RBA: “You have to make sure that they have a tough day at the office. You have to make sure that you’re trying to be dangerous all the time.” (Patrick Gorski/USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
A greatly improved Chicago Fire team ventures to Red Bull Arena with hopes of securing a precious three road points against the Red Bulls Saturday night.
The Red Bulls, on the other hand, have some other ideas about Chicago’s goals to get goals. Not only does New York want to win the Major League Soccer match, it wants to continue its shutout streak. The side hasn’t allowed goal in their home this season while recording a 3-0-1 mark in its fortress.
If anyone knows something about the Red Bulls defending their home turf at RBA, it’s Fire midfielder Dax McCarty. After all, he played there as a defensive/holding midfielder for 5 1/2 seasons and served as captain the past two before he was dealt to Chicago in January.
So, he has some viable theories on how to attack the Red Bulls and how to try to stop their vaunted attack.
“You just have to put them under pressure,” McCarty said in a Wednesday afternoon phone interview. “You have to make sure that they have a tough day at the office. You have to make sure that you’re trying to be dangerous all the time.
“If you’re constantly trying to go toe-to-toe with them and beat them at their own game, you might not be successful. So, you’ve got to switch up your tactics. You’ve got to make sure you throw things at them that they haven’t seen in the past few games. You’ve just got to be really good on the day.”
Starting the week in fifth-place Fire is one of the most improved, if the most improved MLS teams. Chicago is off to a 3-2-2 start after a rather disappointing 7-17-10 finish in 2016, which left the club last among 20 teams. The Windy City side will attempt to win its first road game after a 0-2-1 away start.
New York, which is in third place in the Eastern Conference, also has had its problems on the road (1-3), but has been difficult to solve and beat in the friendly confines of their Harrison, N.J. venue.
The Red Bulls have stretched their home unbeaten streak to 18 matches (15-0-3). During that span, they have registered 12 clean sheets.
“The Red Bulls are a really good team and the system that they play, you know the guys are really well drilled and they know exactly what they’re doing,” McCarty said. “You just have to go into the game and win your individual battles. Our strikers have to be dangerous and when you get chances, you have to make sure you that test Luis [Robles] and you put them on frame because he’s a good keeper and obviously, he’s a good that bails them out when there’s a breakdown.”
Robles has emerged as one of the league’s best goalkeepers. He has played in an MLS-record 148 consecutive matches and was McCarty’s roommate when both were at U.S. national team camp in Carson, Calif. in January.
Then there’s the challenge of limiting and/or shutting down midfielder Sacha Kljestan, last year’s MLS assist champion 920) and striker Bradley Wright-Phillips, who captured his second Golden Boot in their seasons in 2016.
“On the other side of it, you have to be really strong,” McCarty said. “You have to make sure you limit Sacha and Brad, their opportunities to get on the ball and be dangerous.
“It’s a team that can hurt you a bunch of different ways. On the day, you just have to have 11 guys that are sharper than their 11. You have to have guys that compete and run and take advantage of the few opportunities that we may get.”
Of course, that all sounds much easier than done. We’ll see how McCarty and his teammates fare at RBA Saturday night.
Next: Dax Is Back – Part III