Gerhard Struber has hailed New York Red Bulls midfielder Luquinhas as being “from a different planet” after his performance against the Philadelphia Union.
NYRB drew 1-1 with Philadelphia last time out, with Luquinhas having now scored in five of his last six appearances in all competitions.
The form of the Brazilian has thrilled Struber, who ahead of the meeting with the Chicago Fire, told reporters: “We integrated him very quick and in a very good direction.
“I think he feels the family feeling in my group, and this helps him to bring performances on this level, and he grows. I think we are not right now on the finish point of his performance. I think he grows; we always bring him in interesting spots, and in the end … right now he’s also sexy when he has a chance to finish.
“He’s at an outstanding level, his dribbling ability is from a different planet. At the same time, he never forgets his work against the ball and we can see what tackles he has, how he works back, how he sprints back. I think in every direction, he is a big win for this club and a big win for my team.”
Chicago are on a four-game losing streak ahead of their trip to New York, after losing 2-1 to FC Cincinnati at home in their last outing.
Chris Mueller made his full debut for the Fire in that loss, and tweeted: “Indescribable feeling wearing this crest, representing my city, for the first time at home. Not the result we wanted but we’re moving in the right direction. The best is yet to come from this group, I truly believe that.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
New York Red Bulls – Luquinhas
Luquinhas got both of his shots on target against the Union and also finished the game with an impressive 81.3 per cent pass accuracy.
Chicago Fire – Xherdan Shaqiri
It has not been a spectacular start for Xherdan Shaqiri, who assisted Chicago’s only goal in the defeat to Cincinnati. That was his first assist for the Fire.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– The Red Bulls came from behind to beat the Fire, 2-1, in Chicago on April 30. New York has won two matches against the Fire in a single regular season only once since 2008, winning two of three regular season encounters in 2015.
– New York dropped their first away points of the season in a 1-1 draw at the Union on Saturday (W5 D1) but are still yet to win a home match this season (D3 L2). Failure to beat Chicago would make the Red Bulls just the seventh team in MLS history to go winless in their first six home games of a season.
– Chicago are winless in their last seven MLS games (D2 L5) including losing the last four in a row. The Fire have had four losing streaks of at least five matches in the club’s MLS history, most recently an eight-game run in July-August 2018.
– No team has faced fewer shots than the Red Bulls this season, with opponents recording just 8.4 attempts per match. While New York has held just 43.2 percent possession this season, they have out-shot opponents in 10 of their 11 matches, only failing to do so against the Union on Saturday (17-10).
– The Fire are the lowest scoring team in MLS this season with just eight goals. Chicago has scored with a league-worst 6.5 percent of their shots this season, including just three of its 76 attempts since the start of April (3.9 per cent).