MLS Knockout Round: Home Advantage for Chicago
Chicago Fire vs New York Red Bulls Picks
If you're looking to bet on the crucial knockout round match between Chicago and the New York Red Bulls, look no further. Below are the head to head lines, selected from the best online sportsbooks, followed by our fearless prediction and our match preview - make sure you take a look at this so you can make an informed decision on Wednesday night's game.
This is an interesting matchup. On one hand, it is hard to argue that Chicago's dominant home form and New York's awful defensive statistics away from Red Bull Arena won't result in a comfortable win for the Fire. Yet on the other hand, Chicago's 3-0 loss in what was a crucial match last Sunday showed us what can happen to the side when the stakes are raised.
The Red Bulls have much more experience in playoff matches; this will be the eighth-straight year in which they compete in the MLS finals series. They come into the match with good results under their belt, and as underdogs will feel like they have much less to lose than the Fire. They could be a very dangerous outsider here.
The Chicago Fire are offering odds of +108 as favourite in this match, which indicates that the top sportsbooks aren't convinced they can get the job done. We, however, feel that their home form has been far too strong this season, and despite the pressure of their first playoff appearance in five years they will win on Wednesday night.
Pick: Chicago Fire (+208) at Sports Interaction
Chicago Fire vs New York Red Bulls Preview
The match has several interesting narratives, none more so than the fact that former Red Bulls captain Dax McCarty will face the club that he was traded from when he lines up for the Fire on Wednesday night. McCarty has been instrumental to the successful turnaround of Chicago this season, who finished dead last in both the Eastern Conference and the overall standings in 2016, and will be making their first playoffs appearance since 2012.
Both clubs come into the match in mixed form. The Red Bulls have had sixth place locked down for a couple of weeks, so it is hard to get a gauge on their form when they really had nothing to play for, although their recent 3-0 win against former Western Conference frontrunners Vancouver showed that on their day they can match it with the better teams.
This result broke an eight-game winless streak for the New York side, who showed during that period that they can also struggle to grind out necessary results. It will be interesting to see which New York side shows up on Wednesday.
Meanwhile Chicago at times looked very impressive throughout the season, yet their 3-0 loss in the weekend loss to Houston Dynamo gave us a glimpse of what may happen to the Fire when it comes down to knockout football.
A win on Sunday would have seen them leapfrog New York City into second place, where they would have guaranteed progression to the semi-finals, however a capitulation at the hands of the Dynamo reiterated to many fans that they are perhaps a season ahead of schedule when it comes to being considered for the MLS Cup.
So who is more likely to win Wednesday's first MLS knockout round match for 2017? Let's take a look at the key statistics that may impact upon the match.
Chicago have the big advantage of playing at Toyota Park for Wednesday's match.
One of the keys to their success this season has been how they have turned their home stadium into a fortress, something that is crucial in modern football.
Overall, the Fire managed to win 12 of their 17 home fixtures and lose just two all season, occurring in their August form-slump that saw them drop four consecutive matches.
The difference between their home and away record for 2017 is actually quite staggering - with just two losses all season the Fire managed to only concede fourteen goals and finished with a +27 goal difference in their home games, however were poor away from home, winning just four matches, losing nine times and ending the regular season with a minus 13 record.
The Fire also have the advantage of being able to call upon the league's top scorer for 2017, and you can almost guarantee that Nemanja Nikolic will hit the back of the net in this match. He scored 24 goals in the regular season, and a staggering 18 of these came at home at Toyota Park.
Not bad for your first season in the MLS!
New York Red Bulls
The Red Bulls have their own hitman up front, and although less prolific in terms of overall output, Bradley Wright-Phillips still made a more than solid contribution with his 17 goals from 29 starts. He also has a slightly better shots-to-goals ratio than Nikolic.
New York have a less dramatic disparity between their home and away form. They managed a record of 9 wins, 6 draws and just two defeats at Red Bull Arena this season, while on the road they recorded five wins and ten losses from their seventeen matches.
The key statistic from their overall record is the difference between goals conceded home and away - the Red Bulls conceded just 14 goals at home yet managed to allow 33 on the road.
The only positive for the Red Bulls is that their form has tended to come in streaks throughout the season. A run of 6 wins in 8 starts from June to August was preceded by a poor run in which they managed one win in six matches, and followed a streak of eight straight winless games that threatened to see them drop out of the top six. But three consecutive games without a loss heading into the playoffs could be a sign that they are hitting their straps at just the right time.
Head to Head Record
The New York Red Bulls and Chicago Fire have a long history of matches against each other, and it is Chicago with the best overall record. The Fire have won 26 times out of the 55 total games between the two sides, with the Red Bulls winning on 17 occasions.
The record in Chicago is even more emphatic - the home side has won 15 out of 28 matches while New York have only managed to win four times in the Windy City.
While history says New York will struggle to win in Chicago, they will be buoyed by the fact that they are undefeated against the Fire this season. The Red Bulls took out the first of two 2017 fixtures between the two sides with a 2-1 win at Red Bull Arena in late April, while the pair played out a 1-1 draw in the return fixture in Chicago in September. Interestingly, Nemanja Nikolic and Bradley Wright-Phillips both hit the back of the net in each fixture.
It is certainly going to be an intriguing matchup. For more MLS picks, head to our main MLS page for previews of the other knockout round clashes in the 2017 playoffs.
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