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And Find Faith: Chicago Fire vs Philadelphia Union, MLS Week 33 Preview

With the prospect of not seeing Basti suit up until the playoffs, the Fire need to look inward to perform as they know they can

MLS: New York City FC at Chicago Fire
The Fire’s frontman, Nemanja Nikolic, brings out his kids onto the pitch after breaking the club’s single-season scoring record.
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

This past Tuesday, the Fire announced their first playoff slogan since 2012. In the past, the club has used influences with the usage of the words “red” or “fire”. This year, it’s based off of recent Muse single “Dig Down.”

While the song has a more political context, the words are clear: “Dig down / and find faith.”

While you may be hearing that Schweinsteiger will return from injury before the playoffs, I don’t think we’re going to risk him. This means that the players out there need to look to themselves and realize that they can still win without him on the pitch. They’ve proven they can do it, they just need to have the faith in themselves that they can do it.

Philly has a weird feel around them. They’re not in the playoffs, so their games don’t exactly matter as much either. But we’re playing them, so it’s still important to us right now. Their biggest strength is Andre Blake, of course. He’s an amazing goalkeeper who seems to just be everywhere and can reach anywhere. That’s a good thing, seeing as their defense is completely shambolic. Their attacking strength seems to always flow over to their left wing with Fafa Picault and ends with the ball being sent into CJ Sapong. However, Chicago Fire PDL product Marcus Epps showed up against Seattle the other week, which could change the way they’ll shape up come Sunday. Here’s their last three games (you could just skip that first one):

vs. Chicago 9/23

vs. Atlanta 9/27

vs. Seattle 10/1

Three Keys

Niko For Golden Boot?

Last game, Nemanja Nikolic scored his 21st goal, pushing him even further ahead of Ante Razov’s 18 goals in 2000. It also gave him the lead for the MLS Golden Boot going into the final two weeks of the season, with Diego Valeri, David Villa, and Josef Martinez all right behind him (Martinez is more of a “kind of,” but whatever). If he does win it, it would mean that he won the Golden Boot in every season he’s played in since his 2012-13 season in Hungary (if you take out his shortened 2016-17 Ekstraklasa season where he still finished 4th after only playing half the season). With this on the line, I expect him to be hungrier than ever for goals in this game.

Looking For Meaning In Desolation

So I’ve kind of mentioned how this game doesn’t matter. But maybe it matters more than other games. Since there is basically no pressure to perform in this game, that means that this is the truest vacuum for either of these two teams. Sure, the Fire have seeding to worry about, but really they kinda don’t. Because of that, this will be the perfect time to try out different formations and tactics, maybe play some guys who should get some more time (I hear Daniel Johnson’s coming back soon). And if we want to go all out, that’s okay too since it’ll help with a boost to confidence. Speaking of which...

Emotional Boosts

This is my quick opportunity to mention the Fire20 party. It was great to see all of those heroes of old show up (in fact one of the heroes who didn’t make it is going to be in the technical box for Philly). When I left I felt absolutely amazing and invigorated by it. Maybe it was just that sort of thing for a long-time fan such as myself, but I think that that feeling should’ve definitely passed on to the players. I expect that there will definitely be a spring in everyone’s step going into this match (at least those who were there).

Projected Lineups

Chicago Fire

Philadelphia Union

How To Watch

Kickoff: Sunday October 15th, 4:00PM CDT, at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, IL

TV/Streaming: CSN-Chicago, MLS Live

So what do you guys think? Will the Fire go out to win or will they let the kids have a go? And with that in account, will they win or will it be another disappointment to a strange Philly team? Tell us in the comments.