The last time Aleksandar Katai played at Red Bull Arena, something special happened.
Katai, in just his fourth start after joining the Chicago Fire last year, awaited at the edge of the box following a corner kick. The Red Bulls cleared the header toward Katai and the Serbian thundered a volley into the top corner.
On Friday, the Fire travel to Harrison, New Jersey for the first time since that day to face RBNY (8 pm ET | UniMás in US, MLS LIVE on DAZN in Canada).
“I hope it’ll be the same as last year," Katai told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday with a laugh. "They've a very tough team, one of the best. They’re very aggressive and they run a lot.”
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Unfortunately for the Fire in 2019, their season has not found the same success as Katai's effort at Red Bull Arena last year.
Chicago routinely seem to leave games with fewer points than they feel they deserved. The club are third in the leauge in expected goal difference at +7.44, per Opta, trailing only the Philadelphia Union and LAFC. Both of those clubs are first in their conference, while the Fire are eighth in the Eastern Conference. They've also dropped 11 points from winning positions, one point off the league-high.
“It’s been so-so, not good," Katai said of the Fire's first half. "We’re not in the playoffs right now and we’re trying to be there. There have been some good moments, some bad. So-so. ... “We should have gotten three points from the last game. We were better and deserved more, but, that’s soccer. Games like the last one we have to take three points.”
“It’s much easier playing with them," Katai said. "Players like that — What is there to say about Gaitan and Bastian? They’re so good.”
After they face the Red Bulls, they'll have officially passed the midway point of the season. Three points below the playoff line, the Fire are on the outside looking in for postseason play.
The players haven't lost faith.
“Yes, of course," Katai said when asked if he thinks the club will make the playoffs. "If we don’t believe then we should stop right now.”