HARRISON, N.J. – When the New York Red Bulls take to the field on Wednesday afternoon, they won’t just be looking to beat the Chicago Fire. They'll have to beat the heat, too.
Having played to a 2-2 draw with the Seattle Sounders in sweltering conditions late on Sunday afternoon, the Red Bulls are expecting more of the same, if not worse, from Mother Nature when they host the Fire at Red Bull Arena in a rare midweek matinee (1 pm ET, watch on MLS LIVE).
HIGHLIGHTS: NY 2, Seattle 2
The heat and humidity likely to be present at kickoff seem all but set to force Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe to make some changes to his starting lineup. But he is puzzled as to why a game on a Wednesday in the middle of July was ever scheduled in the first place.
“I’ve been questioning [it] since I saw the schedule in February,” Backe told reporters of the kickoff time. “I have no idea. You need to ask the league. It shouldn’t be allowed to play 90 minutes [at] 1 pm. We talk about perhaps 96, 98 degrees.”
While Backe may have been pointing the finger at the league, he could have gotten at least a partial response from someone within the organization. Red Bulls general manager and sporting director Erik Solér explained to reporters prior to Sunday’s tie with the Sounders that there were few other options to choose from in terms of a kickoff time with the Fire.
“It’s more [of] a business decision than a sporting one,” said Soler. “We had a very difficult time of finding different times to play on, and of course from a sporting viewpoint, it’s not ideal to play early in 95 to 100 degrees.
“But we have to take different considerations into the mathematics and it worked out this way ... so we just do our job and try to get the points.”
Claiming the three points in the scorching conditions will prove tough for both sides on Wednesday given their quick turnarounds from weekend fixtures. New York should be affected more, given that Chicago played last Saturday night and not on a hot Sunday afternoon.
Several Red Bulls players half-jokingly wished for rain against the Fire following Sunday’s game. Captain Thierry Henry admitted he and his teammates talked during the draw with Seattle about how much of a toll the heat was taking on them, which became evident as the game wore on due to the Red Bulls’ stagnant offense.
“I’ll be honest with you, the lack of rhythm was the lack of possibly breathing at times,” said Henry. “You’ve got to move and repeat runs, but in the heat it wasn’t easy.”