By Orrin Schwarz
Breaking down the New York Red Bulls at Chicago Fire playoff game by position group:
Goalkeeper -- This has been a sore spot for the Fire this year. Coach Veljko Paunovic has cycled through three players this season in search of a solution. Matt Lampson seems most likely to start this game. The Red Bulls' Luis Robles is one of the top keepers in the league. Edge: New York
Defense -- Outside backs Brandon Vincent and Matt Polster have been dangerous going forward all season for the Fire, but they also are adept when defending. Center backs Johan Kappelhof and Joao Meira have been good too. New York counters with solid players like Kemar Lawrence and Damien Perrinelle. Both teams allowed 47 goals this season. Edge: Fire
Midfield -- When they are healthy, this area is a strength, but the Fire has dealt with injuries here lately. Michael de Leeuw is out, Bastian Schweinsteiger is questionable, Juninho is working his way back and David Accam will have postseason surgery on his hip. At least Dax McCarty is healthy. New York's Sacha Kljestan led the league with 17 assists, and the Fire has nobody like him who can consistently deliver the final pass that leads to a goal. Daniel Royer had 12 goals for New York. Edge: New York.
Forward -- Bradley Wright-Phillips is a proven scorer, with 17 goals this season, but you can't ignore the league Golden Boot winner. The Fire's Nemanja Nikolic scored 24 times in his first MLS season, including 2 in two games against New York. Edge: Fire
Intangibles -- The Fire has home-field advantage, going 12-2-3 at Toyota Park, and that is especially key since both teams played road games Sunday and had to travel Sunday night. But the Red Bulls have far more playoff experience. Edge: none