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Hold The Line: Fire @ Portland, MLS Week 19 Preview

Fire will try to keep their newly-gained top spot on the road against Portland

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Chicago Fire Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

So that makes it two 4-0 home games in a row. I remember that after the Orlando game my dad said we should celebrate it as it was apparently a “once-in-a-lifetime” result. Well, it happened again. And now we’re in first halfway through the season for the first time since July of 2005. Niko’s on pace to demolish records and he’s saying that he’s still got even more he can do. This is clearly an unstoppable team. At home. On the road is yet to really be truly proven. And it will be tested in the Pacific Northwest.

The Timbers ave one of the better attacks in the league, held down by Fanendo Adi and Diego Valeri, who have combined for 19 goals and 8 assists. While their wings are potent, it’s this center that really keeps them ahead of teams. There’s also just the general atmosphere of Providence Park that definitely can get into opposing teams’ heads, giving them a record of 5-1-3 at home. Third in the surprisingly weak Western Conference, here’s some highlights of the team in Portland:

vs. Minnesota

vs. Seattle

vs. Kansas City

Three Keys

Portland With 17?

According to a recent tweet, Portland is getting hit with another two call-ups, Alvas Powell and Darren Mattocks. Both will be going to join their country and join the massive number of players out for Portland. The major names in their IR include players like Jack Barmby, Liam Ridgewell, Amobi Okugo, and Diego Chara. Not to mention that Chance Meyers and Darlington Nagbe are said to be questionable for the game. The rules of the game allow a team to name 17 players instead of 18, but it’s definitely a disadvantage.

How To Stay In First

So the logic here is that if we win, we stay on top no matter what happens. But this may be the time for some gamesmanship. So let’s try to figure out what the math says for the Fire staying on top. Toronto is now two points behind us. We lose the spot if we lose and they win against Orlando. Any other outcome and we’re still on top. So mathematically, where does that put us? I’ve been calculating the Win chance % in MLS for the past season and a half, so I have a massive spreadsheet on this. All you need to know (due to space constraints) is that my personal calculation is that the Fire have between an 88-90% chance of staying in first by the end of the night. Maybe someday I’ll unveil the spreadsheet, but we still have one thing left to get through and it’s a biggie.

Mihailovic Should Start Over Schweinsteiger

So with mathematical proof that we should hold on for a draw and we’ll probably be safe, let’s talk why my projected lineup looks a little... off. Instead of everyone’s favorite long and hard to spell name, there’s a very much lesser known one. That is Djordje Mihailovic, the homegrown kid straight out of high school. He’s made quite a few appearances, mostly walking on for Basti late in games. I say Pauno should run him out there to give Basti a chance to rest and allow our bench to be heavy. A “heavy bench” is basically my way of saying that the bench has the highest quality of the 18. It’s a good strategy to use when going for the draw, allowing the better players to be fresh when it matters and maybe even take the win. It’s about the slow game with this. Also, I could’ve also put Alvarez at LW and De Leuuw at the 10 spot, but this explains my point a whole lot better and Alvarez adds to that weight on the bench.

Projected Lineups

Chicago Fire

Portland Timbers

How To Watch

Kickoff: Wednesday July 5th, 7:30PM PDT/9:30PM CDT

TV/Streaming: CSN-Chicago, MLS Live

So can the Fire hold the line and stay in first by the end of the night? Will we even keep our winning streak going? Tell us what you think below.