New York, Chicago poised for massive clash at RBA

They don't get much bigger than this.

Red Bull New York will host the Chicago Fire at Red Bull Arena on Saturday as the two clubs battle for position in the Eastern Conference.

The two sides are tied on 53 points as they enter the weekend five points adrift of first-place Sporting Kansas City. A win for either side, plus some help elsewhere around the league, would clinch a playoff berth for the victor.

Chicago was one of the most in-form sides in MLS not long ago, but a two-game slide, including a disappointing 3-1 home loss to the struggling Philadelphia Union last time out, has seen the Fire stumble in their quest for the Eastern Conference title.

"Maybe it's good that we know we are not in the playoffs yet - we have to work hard and we have to defend first because in the end good defense wins," said defender Arne Friedrich. "We played well for the first couple of months and now we're getting lazy and if we continue to play like this we have no chance to get into the playoffs.

"I hope it's early enough that we come together, recognize that and on Saturday we have do things completely differently. First we have to defend our goal, then we can score and win the game."

New York is coming off of a 4-1 thrashing of Toronto FC despite conceding an early goal, something the Red Bulls have made a habit of doing this season.

"I can't get out of my head that we concede again early," Thierry Henry said. "I know it was a wonder-goal, but we should have been down 1-0 after 45 seconds.

"I've been saying the same thing since the beginning of the season, we have to come back into games and fight and use more energy than some other teams. At the end of the day, we did what we had to do, but every time we have to come out of a bad situation. That's the way it is, you have to fight for everything in sport, but again, it's tiring at times."

Henry has put together a season worthy of MVP honors, scoring 14 goals and adding 12 assists. But it has been Henry's penchant for disappearing in matches against playoff teams that has been quite alarming - twelve of the Frenchman's goals and nine of his assists have come against teams outside the playoff picture this season.

If the Red Bulls are to be considered serious MLS Cup contenders, they will need Henry to start producing the goods against the best of the best, starting on Saturday against the Fire.