(Everything. The answer is Everything.)
Last fall we played LAFC for the first time ever. It was set up as a bittersweet fixture, with the Fire clashing with a team led by head coach and club legend Bob Bradley.
Given how good the opposition were, and how poorly we were faring, I predicted a bloodbath. Somehow we won 3-1.
Every fiber of my being says this second meeting tomorrow night in Cali is going to be a disaster for us. But I’ve been wrong before. I pray I’m wrong again.
Chicago Fire all-time MLS record vs LAFC: 1W-0D-0L, 3 GF / 1 GA, 3 pts out of 3
Chicago Fire away MLS record vs LAFC: 0W-0D-0L, 0 GF / 0 GA, 0 pts out of 0
Back-to-back games with Seattle— yielding a win and a draw— plus a freak loss to Vancouver. Four points from nine looks bad on paper, but I feel like that’s a bit deceptive. Don’t count on “current form” skewing things in Chicago’s favor.
Ousted; Gutjahr, Kappelhof, Marcelo, Campos; McCarty (c), Adams; Katai, Gaitán, Sapong, Nikolic
I’m not sure how confident I am in this backline; I’d be fine with a few different combinations of outside back (as long as Jeremiah Gutjahr is somewhere in the mix). I also suspect that Djordje Mihailovic will get the start over Mo Adams. The forward line is pretty straight-forward.
Keys To The Match
Protect Your Net: David Ousted has been doing ok as our starting goalkeeper. (Certainly better than Richard Sanchez fared for much of 2018.) But he’s not a superhero. If you give him too many plates to juggle, some of them are going to fall and break. That’s just the reality. The backline and the midfield need to pull it together to give him some cover. Otherwise, LA are going to tear us to pieces.
Goals? In THIS Economy??: The Fire are doing better in terms of goal production. Nemanja Nikolic and Aleksandar Katai have almost— not quite but almost— caught up to CJ Sapong in the team goalscoring leaderboard. But no one has hit double digits yet, and it’s May. We have one of stronger forward lines in the league on paper. It’s time for that to start paying off.
Hold The Line: Carlos Vela is the current Golden Boot leader, which means he will be the likely architect of our demise. I’m honestly not sure what, if anything, this Fire defense can do to contain Vela or hold him off. But they have to do something.
How To Watch
My heart says the Fire will pull another rabbit out of the hat. My head says that tomorrow night is going to be rough. I’ll say 3-1 LAFC.