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Red Bulls, Fire go in opposite directions in standings

The New York Red Bulls will look to maintain their push toward the top of the MLS Eastern Conference standings when they visit the Chicago Fire on Saturday night at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill.

New York (14-6-2) has 44 points in 22 games and is hot on the heels of Atlanta United FC (14-4-6), which leads the league with 48 points in 24 games. The Red Bulls are looking to break through and contend for a championship after reaching the playoff semifinals in three of the past four seasons.

A win on Saturday would give New York five victories in its past six matches.

Meanwhile, Chicago (6-13-5) is lagging toward the bottom of the standings with 23 points in 24 games. The Fire were eliminated from U.S. Open Cup play on Wednesday night with a 3-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union, which leaves the rest of the MLS regular season as the club's only opportunity to enjoy success.

The Fire have lost six MLS games in a row. Their last league victory came June 30.

"We have to do a good job now to support and recover our guys," Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said on the team's official site. "It's not anything lost yet. I think we still have options, and we depend on ourselves. We've got to pick it up. ... We will keep trying to improve and get better and always be competitive and compete for every game, to win every game."

The Fire are led in scoring by forward Nemanja Nikolic, who has 10 goals in 21 games. Midfielder Aleksandar Katai is second on the team with nine goals, and midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger and forward Alan Gordon are tied for third with four goals apiece.

For New York, forward Bradley Wright-Phillips leads the squad with 14 goals in 22 games. Midfielder Daniel Royer (eight goals) is next, with several players tied for third with three goals apiece.

The Red Bulls' top playmaker is midfielder Alejandro Romero Gamarra, who has 14 assists in 19 games. Four of those assists have set up game-winning goals for the team.

Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles has 57 saves and seven shutouts this season.

On the opposite end of the field, Chicago goalkeeper Richard Sanchez has 73 saves and two shutouts.

Red Bulls defender Tim Parker said he and his teammates had a simple goal in mind as they prepared to start a road trip.

"Get three points," Parker told reporters in comments posted on the team's official site. "I think it's important. We haven't really been on a true road game in a while. We obviously want to go ahead and get started on a good (note).

"They have talent and they play a good style of soccer when they're rolling. We saw it when they came here and played against us. They had a game plan and they executed it pretty well. We obviously just have to keep that in mind and make adjustments as the game goes on."

Updated August 9, 2018

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