There really is only one way to say it: This one isn't going to be pretty.
I, like many fans and analysts, thought I was looking at nothing more than a typo when I saw that the New York Red Bulls were scheduled to play the Chicago Fire in a midweek afternoon July game back when the Major League Soccer fixtures were released this past winter. The grand experiment that is seeing if people will take off work to attend a RBNY match has been made even more intriguing by the fact that it could legitimately be between 95-100 degrees in Harrison, NJ come kickoff time (1:00 pm ET). Unless the New York front office can get their hands on one of those air conditioned stadiums, the two sides may be wise to meet before the match and agree on a very light 90-minute training session and nothing more.
3 thoughts heading into NY Red Bulls vs. Chicago Fire: The big story
The first thing on the minds of all discussing Wednesday's match is, of course, the heat. Hourly forecasts as of late Tuesday afternoon were predicting for a game time temperature of 95 degrees and a heat index of 102 degrees. Those conditions will, according to predictions, last throughout the match up until at least 4 pm, roughly one hour after the conclusion of the game. One "in the know" person told me during a Tuesday conversation that it could feel as hot as 120 degrees on the pitch during the match. Any athlete, regardless of desire, can only run so hard for so long a time in such conditions, and thus I am expecting a slow, likely tedious contest. Managing and utilizing substitutes could be the difference for either team, which has me very concerned considering New York head coach Hans Backe used just one sub during this past weekend's game; and that was a first half change brought on by Rafa Marquez picking up an injury. Backe, as all New York supporters know, has a history of using subs very late in games if at all. Such a strategy would be unwise on Wednesday.
3 thoughts heading into NY Red Bulls vs. Chicago Fire: Who is playing?
The 2012 Red Bulls will have a depleted squad entering a league match because of injuries. In other breaking news, water is still wet. The team announced via their official website on Tuesday that the previously mentioned Marquez, Jan Gunnar Solli and Heath Pearce will all sit this match out. Teemu Tainio also remains sidelined, and rookie goalkeeper Ryan Meara (hip injury) may miss his second consecutive game. Rumors also continue to swirl about the availability of captain Thierry Henry, who made his feelings on afternoon summer MLS games quite clear this past weekend. Chicago's away record, 3-4-2, may not have Red Bulls fans shaking due to fear, but it shouldn't be forgotten that the Fire slapped around a makeshift RBNY lineup once this season.
3 thoughts heading into NY Red Bulls vs. Chicago Fire: If a game is played but nobody is there to watch it...(plus prediction)
I've heard and read a lot of predictions regarding the in-house attendance for Wednesday's game. Some have been as high as 15,000 (doubt it), while others are believing as few as 5,000 will actually be inside Red Bull Arena during the game. I've not yet decided where I'll be watching the contest, but I can tell you this: You're not going to be comfortable sitting in an outdoor RBA chair at 1:00 pm on July 18, 2012, and I don't expect the Red Bulls to enjoy much of a "home field advantage" on this day.
There are no indications that the heat is going to break anytime before early evening at absolute best. Because of this, I have zero belief that we will see anything close to the best from either squad. You always want to get the win at home, but these aren't your normal circumstances. I'd be absolutely fine with a 1-1 draw, one that results with everybody eventually leaving the arena healthy.
One final note to those attending the match: Heat exhaustion and dehydration should not be taken lightly. Drink plenty of water, take it easy on the beer, and stay safe.