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Pauno’s March To The Sea: Chicago Fire vs. Atlanta United, MLS #3 preview

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The Fire move on to Atlanta, hoping to leave it smoldering by the time they’re done

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Chicago Fire
Alvarez celebrates his goal last week against RSL as Accam decides to start the count-down.
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

We did it! We won! We no longer have a winless streak (at least for home openers)! Heck, we even held first place for a bit! But that game just seemed to have a bit of an easy quality to it. Our two goals came from very grave errors (Defense stopped for an “offside” and Rimando slipping to the wrong side) and later on most of the possession was in our half. We still haven’t gone up against good competition.

Enter stage right: Atlanta United. This expansion side has a lot of similar qualities to the Fire’s inaugural season if you look hard enough. They both rely heavily on players from a certain region (“Eastern Bloc” for the Fire and South America for Atlanta) and most of those create one of the most explosive attacks in the league. The difference is that while the Fire got old, but not done yet stars; Atlanta has youths. They're going to be fast and they're going to be on the wings. While that was clearly shown in last week's game vs. Minnesota, I feel that any game against MNUFC should be voided at the moment. So here's the highlights from both that game and their season opener vs. NYRB, which shows them in a much more realistic light:

Vs. Minnesota

Vs. New York

Three Keys

Don’t Let Their Speed Kill Us

I think I’ve addressed our wings time and time before, but this is a more specific problem. While the past two games have had skill on the wings, Atlanta brings a little extra with something like four David Accams up top. Okay, maybe not that fast, but we’re going to have to make sure that we find ways to cancel it out or else we’ll find ourselves behind. But then again, maybe that isn’t a bad thing because...

It’s Okay To Go Down Early

Atlanta has played only 2 games so far and, as I said earlier, Minnesota doesn’t count. So the only other impression we have of these guys is against New York. And you know what, you can see that while they can overwhelm defenses with their speed, their defense is also very susceptible to the same attack. If we can hold them to one, their defense has been causing them a bit of worry, so if we go down by 1 early, DON’T PANIC. Although, it means our attack would need to step it up in a couple key places...

Whip It!

It was once said, “A team does not win with Niko alone, but by the service provided to him from the sides of the pitch.” Bible study: over. But the point of my quote is that Niko was very good at Legia, but Legia had him set up from the wings every single day. The Fire don’t seem to be doing that. It might be tactical, it might be situational, it might be because they haven’t gotten the space to do so; but the the point is they’re not doing it. Niko can still make opportunities happen, but he doesn’t have amazing speed or fancy footwork, he has his brain and a positional awareness (once he’s onside) that we can use to our advantage and score from.

Projected Line-ups

Chicago Fire 2017 opening day - MLS - Football tactics and formations
Atlanta United - Football tactics and formations

How to Watch

Kickoff: March 18th, 2017, 3:00 PM CDT/4:00 PM EDT

TV/Streaming: UniMas, MLS Live, Facebook Live

So where do you guys think it’s going? Are Atlanta going to get their first real win? Or is Chicago going to bring the heat back to the heart of Georgia? Or is it going to be a boring 0-0 draw with a lot of running? Tell us in the comments what’s about to happen and why.