The Chicago Fire won’t have long to celebrate the two-year anniversary of their last road win, as they return to the more friendly confines of Toyota Park. Unfortunately for them, the Fire is up against a Sporting Kansas City side that’s streaking like they’re back in college, coming into Chicago undefeated in their past five league matches. The match begins at 7:30 p.m. on CSN Chicago.
The Fire could not really ask for much worse of an opponent as they look to turn the tide on their season. As stated above, Sporting Kansas City comes into the match hitting on all cylinders with five straight league matches without a loss and a streak that finds them outscoring their opponents 10-5. Included in that stretch were impressive home wins against conference leaders FC Dallas and New York City FC.
What could be more concerning for the Fire is the 10 goals scored in that time, including a three-goal outbreak against NYCFC without leading scorer Dom Dwyer. When SKC was treading water in the Western Conference, a lot of blame could be put on an offense that scored just 14 times in their first 15 matches - though their 14.4 shots per game is second in the league. With the discovery of their dormant offense, and the return of Dwyer tonight from his yellow card accumulation suspension, the Fire’s back four could have to prepare themselves for a long night on their heels.
Possession is typically the best way to alleviate stress on the defense, but that may be difficult to find against a SKC side that ranks second in the league with an average of 53.2 percent possession per game. Most of that possession is in the middle, as the SKC five man midfield formation clogs the midfield for opponent’s and press opponents high whenever possible. The midfield has experience both domestically and internationally, as its members includes former US Men’s National Team players Brad Davis, Benny Feilhaber, Graham Zusi as well as Honduras National Team starter Roger Espinoza and Haitian National Team starter Soni Mustivar.
One positive for the Fire is that Zusi (hamstring) is questionable for tonight’s game (which isn’t that big of a loss this season), as are depth pieces Paulo Nagamura (thigh) (he did score against the Fire in the 1-0 victory last year) and Chance Myers (hamstring).
When opponents have been able to break, they’ve had some luck as SKC has allowed 23 goals in 20 matches this season. It’s smack in the middle of the league, but the Fire have to hope David Accam and newcomer Michael De Leeuw can take advantage if (and that may be a big if tonight) they can get service.
The Fire has been able to defend their home turf, going 5-2-3 at home across all competitions this season. In fact, the Fire are on a six match home unbeaten streak, having last loss April 16 against Montreal. The Fire hasn’t exactly dominated their opponent’s during this time, having only outscored them 7-4 in their six match streak, but it’s a nice positive to hold onto.
And they will likely need to hold on against a Sporting Kansas City side that is finally living up to the preseason hype. In the battle of streaks, I hate that I have to give this one to SKC, as I think they’ll come away from Toyota Park with a 2-0 victory.
What are your thoughts and predictions? Leave a comment below?