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Red Bulls-Fire Preview
By KATE HEDLIN
(AP) -- Thierry Henry has struggled to stay healthy for the New York Red Bulls this season, but with Kenny Cooper finding the back of the net with regularity, his absence hasn't kept the club from putting together an impressive run.
While Henry is expected to miss his fifth game of the season, Cooper will try to extend a four-match goal-scoring streak Sunday when the Red Bulls visit the Chicago Fire.
New York (8-3-2) went into the league's extended break following a 1-all draw against Chivas on May 23, extending its unbeaten streak to six games (5-0-1) while challenging D.C. United for the Eastern Conference lead.
Cooper has been instrumental for the team's success, scoring in each of the last four games to give him 11 goals and a share of the MLS lead with San Jose's Chris Wondolowski entering this weekend.
"He's a hard, hard worker," coach Hans Backe said. "Every game, every training session, and of course he has good guys around him who can feed him with the precise passes. I still think he has a lot to learn. I think he can improve."
The production by Cooper, whose career high is 18 goals in 2008 with FC Dallas, has helped make up for the absence of Henry, who is second on the team with nine goals. He missed four games between May 5-19 before returning against Chivas.
Henry, as well as Rafa Marquez, are expected to miss Sunday's game. Henry is recovering from a calf injury, which also kept him from two U.S. Open Cup games during the MLS layoff, while Marquez suffered a thigh injury while playing for Mexico in World Cup qualifying.
The two will also miss next Wednesday's game at Vancouver.
However, Cooper has had little trouble against Chicago, scoring six goals in nine matches.
New York hasn't had an unbeaten streak longer than five games since 2008. The Red Bulls travel to face the Fire (5-5-3), who have lost their last two league games and three in a row overall when including a U.S. Open Cup defeat May 29.
Chicago lost 2-0 at New England on June 2, falling behind for the fifth straight match. Only twice this season have they tallied the first score in the game.
"We've kind of been all over the place with good starts or good middle thirds, or even 70, 80 minute stretches," defender Dan Gargan told MLSsoccer.com. "It's been a great thing for us to claw out of a lot of these holes, but you can't always do that."
The Fire will try to take advantage of a home-heavy stretch in their schedule as they look to climb the East standings. They play their next two and four of six at Toyota Park, where they are 3-1-2 and conceded only five goals.
The last three meetings between New York and Chicago have ended in a draw. The Fire are 5-0-4 in their last nine games at home against the Red Bulls dating back to 2005.
Updated June 16, 2012