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Rache: Fire vs. Atlanta, MLS Week 15 Preview

Unbeaten in six games, the Fire look to exact sweet revenge on Atlanta

MLS: Chicago Fire at Orlando City SC
Schweinsteiger is the guy who will have to continue picking up the slack for Dax while he’s gone, but now he’s got the help of Juninho.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

As anyone who has read the Sherlock Holmes books (or even just seen the first episode of Sherlock) would know, rache is the German word for “revenge.” And as anyone who follows this team would know, the Fire will face off against Atlanta United for only the second time ever this weekend. Their inaugural meeting ended in a 4-0 loss. The Fire, boasting a German superstar in the squad for this follow-up meeting, will be eager to secure some rache and even the score.

Before we get to that, let’s discuss where we are after the disappointing scoreless draw against Orlando. It seemed like we were constantly on the doorstep the entire game, but never quite got the goal. There was a constant bombardment of the box, but Orlando bunkered down and robbed us of a victory with a two man advantage.

Juninho, who missed the game for the birth of his son, is back in contention this week. Hopefully his touch will come back after spending time on the bench behind Dax and Basti.

Fresh off a demoralizing 3-1 loss to Vancouver, ending a three-game winning streak, Atlanta has a bit of soul searching to do. But that loss was able to expose the weakness in their defense (as discussed below) and definitely helps us as the momentum stops. While this could be a rebound game for the team, the outlook doesn’t look too peachy.

Vs. Houston 5/20

Vs. NYCFC 5/28

Vs. Vancouver 6/3

Three Keys

Paraguay By Way Of Germany

Schweinsteiger won’t be the only German playmaker in this game. Straight outta Bavaria, Julian Gressel has been one of the front-runners for rookie of the year. For the past few years he’s attended Providence college and was drafted 8th overall by the expansion side after an impressive combine performance. After earning his starting spot, he’s had an explosion of assists these past few weeks, specifically to the young Paraguayan DP, Miguel Almiron. That’s right, we’ve got a right “Dynamic Duo” here of young players! That’s a very dangerous thing to go up against, but I think I know how to stop them up. Simply hold up Gressel on the wing and remove space for him to cross and keep Kap or Meira on “iso” against Almiron, as he routinely causes more trouble than their striker, Villalba.

Where’s Your Head At?

One of the ways teams have proven most dangerous against Atlanta is their ability to cross it in. We definitely had some practice crossing it in, but those were almost aimless battering rams just trying to break through a steel curtain. Since Parkhurst and Pirez sit a bit further back than most CBs in the league, we’re going to have difficulty with just Accam rushing in for a counter-attack. Instead we need to be precise and decisive about our crosses into the box. The Atlanta defense gave up all three goals off crosses against Vancouver last week (okay, one was a rebound; but the play was a cross) and we need to take notice of that weakness. So Niko better get his head ready for the massive amounts of crosses coming his way.

How To Do Stuff Without Dax

So how do you properly quantify Dax McCarty’s impact on this team? You really can’t; but when you’re trying to have a replacement for him, you need to know what you need there. What Dax brought most to the table was that “second-to-last pass”. It’s the pass that goes either out wide to Vincent or Polster/Conner or sends someone forward with the ball. It’s the facilitator role that we already have Schweinsteiger on, but Dax was able to compliment it through being the guy who does it from back in our own third. That was something we missed from him in the Orlando game: That extra pass or two that opened up the defense before they went to the total lockdown defense. I think that Juninho has been waiting for his chance to prove himself again and I think that’s the way he needs to do it.

Projected Lineups

Chicago Fire

Atlanta United

How To Watch

Kickoff: Saturday June 10th, 3:00 CDT

TV/Streaming: UniMas, Facebook, MLS Live

So who will bounce back? Those seeking revenge? Or those seeking comfort in a previous win? Only time will tell; but you can tell us, if you want, in the comments below!