The first third of the season did not go the way the Fire wanted.
Chicago got off to its worst 10-game start in club history, David Accam was battling nagging injuries and the expected primary goal scorer is on an indefinite leave after his poor play sunk his confidence to new lows. The Fire has had two weeks to mentally reset and used an Open Cup game against Indy Eleven on Wedndesday to get back some winning confidence.
It's a new start with the majority of the season left, but the Fire were given no favors as it is the league-best Colorado Rapids waiting to welcome the Men in Red back from the Copa America break. Last year's Western cellar dwellers have been anything but in 2016.
The Rapids have an unbelievable 28 points in 14 games played, amassing a sterling 6-0-1 record at home where they rarely let the opponent score. Going strictly by the numbers, Saturady's match is about as ugly as it can get for the Fire. Colorado has conceded only three goals at home all season while the Fire have only scored two goals on the road all year.
Much of Colorado's success has come from the unexpected offensive prowess of Jermaine Jones. The veteran midfielder has built his reputation as a defensive midfielder, but he is leading the way as a central attacking midfielder in Colorado with three goals and two assists. After a career that seemed destined to be winding down, Jones has found new life with an unexpected offensive mindset.
Thankfully, he will not be a factor against the Fire as Jones is with the national team and cannot compete Saturday.
Much was made of Colorado's Designated Player in Shkelzen Gashi but the Albanian has gotten off to a modest start with two goals and will miss the game anyway as he is with his national team for the Euros. Instead, the Fire will need to keep an eye on Luis Solignac who also has three goals and very likely Dillon Serna, who scored the lone goal in last year's 1-0 victory for the Rapids against the Fire.
It is also important to note Matt Polster has a 99.9 percent chance of not playing because of a likely concussion suffered Wednesday. So that's unfortuante.
Needless to say, I don't love the Fire's chances tonight. But this is the MLS. Worst beating first isn't necessairly unprecedented. It's been 30 matches since the Fire have won a road game. Tonight would make absolutely zero sense for that trend to end. So maybe it just will.
Prediction: 2-0 Colorado with goals from Dillon Serna and Marco Pappa.
The Things to Know
COLORADO RAPIDS VS. CHICAGO FIRE
DICK'S SPORTING GOODS PARK, Commerce City, Colorado
June 18, 2016
8 p.m. CT (MLS LIVE, Altitude, CSN Plus)
REFEREE: Juan Guzman. AR1 (bench): Kyle Atkins; AR2 (opposite): Logan Brown; 4th: Alex Chilowicz
MLS Career: 68 games; FC/gm: 25.3; Y/gm: 3.6; R: 21; pens: 15
ALL-TIME (40 meetings): Rapids 13 wins (1 shootout), 50 goals -- Fire 18 wins (0 shootout), 62 goals -- Ties 9
AT COLORADO (19 meetings): Rapids 9 wins (1 shootout), 30 goals -- Fire 3 wins (0 shootout), 20 goals -- Ties 7
LAST YEAR [MLS]:
8/22: CHI 0, COL 1 (Serna 1)