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Keep Clicking Those Heels, Dorothy: Fire vs New England, MLS Week 22 Preview

Ironically, we want to leave Kansas.

MLS: Chicago Fire at Sporting KC
David Accam looks on in horror as Nemanja Nikolic misses a shot.
Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

When last we left our intrepid heroes, we were going down in a fiery plane crash against Kansas City. Well, that’s a bit dramatic, but the team has had quite the shock since coming out of the Gold Cup break. There have been rumors about unrest in the locker room and it has shown on the pitch with two terrible performances to end the month of July. We continue to be without Brandon Vincent, but Patrick Doody has shown that he’s capable of being our band-aid until “Hollywood” returns. On the more worrying end, Accam seems to be on his way out, but he’s not gone yet. He could still have a role to play in this game. Now let’s have a look at the visitors.

Unlike us, New England has apparently come back from the break better than ever, scoring a combined 7 goals to win their last two games. But then you look at the context and see that they played against a struggling LA team that would end up firing their coach later in the week and Philadelphia (I mean, seriously; It’s Philly, get over yourself). Once again, they’re not that good of a team, especially away from home. I’m not saying to get cocky, but we really need a doormat right now and this is the team that’s been served to us. Let’s look at their last three:

vs. NYRB 7/5

vs LA Galaxy 7/22

vs. Philadelphia Union 7/29

Three Keys

The Curious Case of Midfield Depth

When we picked up Juninho on loan from Tijuana, it seemed like everyone involved was excited. Fans knew him from his years with LA and he seemed really excited to play for this city. It seems that love on both sides seemed to have died down. There was a stat I found while researching this game that said that we have let by about 0.9 more goals per 90 with him on the pitch. We have also had him on the pitch more often and he did play the full 90 against Atlanta; but when you watch the goals we’ve given up, the numbers make sense. He’s just been a bit lack-luster and doesn’t seem to be playing off of the other two midfielders like they do with eachother. It’s a sad thing, but I don’t see how we can keep him around much longer when he’s such a valuable asset and we have needs.

Buying The House-Brand

If I were to liken one MLS team to a corresponding European team, you would probably think I’d pick a better team for it. Actually, I see the “MLS-Brand” Barcelona as New England for the sole reason that everyone on the pitch for them is deadly. Their front five consistently make massive amounts of passes in the attacking third to allow teammates to move up and really put pressure on the opposition. All but two people in the lineup I drew up have a “hockey point”. Those two are Cody Cropper and Gershon Koffie. We need to make sure that we cut down on their space when they move in on us, giving them less options going forward. They may not be the real Barcelona, but the house-brand offense is still dangerous.

Comfort Zone

We have won our last 8 games at home. Toyota Park is most definitely a fortress. But is it turning into our “comfort zone”? Basically, can we only win there and nowhere else? After a three game road trip, we haven’t won any of them and we lost the last two. The real question to ask when we get back home isn’t “Will this recharge us?”, but “Is this us?” Are the performances we’re putting on at home really comparable to when we go back out into the world? There’s a lot of questions here, but this is just a different, more cynical way of looking at this home streak.

Projected Lineups

Chicago Fire

New England Revolution

How To Watch

Kickoff: Saturday August 5th, 7:30PM CDT, Toyota Park (Bridgeview, IL)

TV/Streaming: CSN-Chicago Plus, MLS Live

So will we continue to hold down the fort or will our comfort zone be shattered? Tell us in the comments what you think.