I try to be optimistic about this team’s chances in the Cup, but I’ve got to be honest here. It doesn’t look good.
Even at 70-80% strength, Atlanta are one of the scariest teams in the country. Our last meeting with ATL didn’t go very well. And the discontent among the fans has yet to be resolved.
This game, against this team, at this moment in time, with the kind of crowd they’re expecting... this has all the makings of a disaster.
Of course, if the Fire CAN pull it off and get through to the next round, it could be the kind of game you tell your grandkids about.
Either way, you’ll want to have your coping mechanism of choice on hand for the evening.
Chicago Fire away USOC record vs Atlanta United: N/A
Four points from their last two league games— both of them on the road— plus the 3-0 beatdown on Charleston Battery in Round 4 of the USOC. None of this should come as a surprise, but it’s worth keeping in mind what we’re up against.
Sanchez; Corrales, Lillard, Kappelhof, Ramos; McCarty, Bronico, Johnson; Katai, Campos, Nikolic
Kappelhof, at least, is a no-brainer. His red card near the end of the New England game last week will sit him for at least one MLS game. The Fire might as well get some mileage out of him in the Cup since he’s not flying to Seattle this weekend.
Other than that, look for the Fire to name a strong XI. Speed and power will count for a lot here, hence why I think Bronico and Campos should start ahead of Schweinsteiger and Solignac. And we can’t not have Niko up top.
Keys To The Match
Be Flexible: We don’t really know what kind of team Atlanta is going to put out there. It’s the Cup, and with ATL doing so well in MLS it’s unlikely they’re going to field their strongest XI tonight. Plus, two of their best players— Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez— are listed as questionable. All that said, Atlanta aren’t just going to give up on this. The Fire will need to be ready for just about anything. Keep the tactical briefing short and loose, and be ready to adjust on the fly.
Read The Room: Following on from the first point, the hosts may be without some of their key players tonight. This could be just the opening Chicago needs. They’re already familiar with what Atlanta can do at full strength— which means they should be able to sense some opportunities once they know who’s taking the night off. Find those opportunities and make the most of them.
Tune It Out: The buzz coming out of Atlanta points toward a new attendance record for tonight’s clash. And with the #Free101 boycott still in effect, it’s likely the contingent of away supporters will be fairly modest. The Fire will have to play in front of a large, loud, hostile crowd. They must find a way to tune them out and focus on the job in front of them.
How To Watch
Can the Fire overcome the odds and fight through to Round 6? Let us know in the comments below!