The world certainly likes to work in funny ways. Former New York Red Bulls captain Dax McCarty was traded a couple months before the start of the 2017 MLS regular season. Neither he nor or many Red Bull supporters were happy in the way this transaction was handled. Now, it almost seems like destiny as the two sides will meet in the knockout round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. If you wanted drama, you just got it.
2017 MLS Cup Playoffs Knockout Round Preview: Chicago Fire vs New York Red Bulls
Regular Season Series
The Red Bulls had the upper hand in the series between these two sides in the regular season. They took four points out of a possible six against a very talented Fire side.
April 29th: Red Bull Arena
The Red Bulls won this match by a score of 2-1 against Chicago. A late second half goal scored by Kemar Lawrence would break the deadlock of 1-1 and give the Red Bulls the victory. McCarty did contribute to the assist on the equalizer scored by Nemanja Nikolic earlier in the second half.
September 9th: Toyota Park
This match had a very similar feel to the first one between these two clubs. Bradley Wright-Phillips scoring early on as he did in the first match put the Red Bulls up 1-0. However, Nikolic would equalize just as he did in the first match. The Red Bulls were unable to find a late winner in this one and the match ended 1-1.
Young Back Line for Red Bulls
This could be one of the most concerning factors for the Red Bulls. Outside of Damien Perrinelle and Kemar Lawrence, the Red Bulls have a very young and inexperienced back line. Aaron Long, Michael Amir Murillo, Fidel Escobar, and Tyler Adams could very well be in that back three/back five starting in this match. All four of these young players have never contested an MLS playoff match. They will certainly have to call in their U.S Open Cup success for help here as they are facing a very dangerous and experienced Fire attack.
Super Sub Gonzalo Veron
It is no doubt that Gonzalo Veron is having a career year despite only playing in 777 minutes in MLS play this season. He scored six goals and added three assists while starting only five of the 24 appearances he had. However, even looking beyond the stats he has been a flat out difference maker for the team in the latter half of the season. When he has come on, good things have happened. If this match reaches the 50th-55th minute with the score level or Chicago ahead, Veron needs to be put into this game. While he can make an instant change, the more time he has to work the greater the possibility he will help produce.
Predicted Red Bulls Starting XI
If you wanted drama, you most certainly have it in this looming battle. The former captain against the team that got rid of him the day after his wedding. A team in search for its first MLS Cup has a beloved fan favorite of the club lining up for the opposing side. As in terms of score I believe this is too close to call.