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The Soft Reset: Chicago Fire vs Real Salt Lake, MLS Week 16 Preview

The Fire have an opportunity for a fresh start. Will they take it?

MLS: U.S. Open Cup-LAFC at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”

So says the old cliche. And so says our hopes for the future. The Fire’s struggles in the first half of the season have been well documented. From poor defense to inefficient finishing to questionable coaching, we’ve seen it all in the first half of the year.

Anything that can go wrong, has.

But this is MLS. There’s nothing but examples of teams laying down in the first half, only to make something of themselves in the second. The 2016 Seattle Sounders only won six of their first twenty games, and had to sneak into the post season. They won it all.

The Fire have the firepower to do the same. They create the second most scoring chances in the league. They have the 2017 golden boot winner and a resurgent CJ Sapong willing to carry the goal scoring load. Aleksander Katai has looked like one of the best players in the league, and his work rate has been second to none. Nico Gaitán is a special player who does special things.

Everything tells me that the Men In Red are set up for success the rest of the season.

It’s time to start over.

Chicago Fire all-time MLS record vs Real Salt Lake: 7W-7D-7L, 25 GF / 20 GA, 28 pts out of 63

Chicago Fire home MLS record vs Real Salt Lake: 4W-4D-3L, 11 GF / 8 GA, 16 pts out of 33

Previously on…

RSL haven’t been doing all that great coming into the break. They’ve lost 4 of their last 5 matches, including a 4-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls on June 1st. Their last win came May 18th at home against Toronto 3-0.

Suggested Lineup

I think this is the default lineup going forward— or at least until Mihailovic comes back. Out of all the left back choices the club have at the moment, I like Jeremiah Gutjahr the best. If for no other reason than I don’t have any memories of him screwing something up as bad as any of the other options.

Also, play Mo Adams.

Keys To The Match

Pressure: The Fire need to be attacking from the first whistle, and for the full 90 minutes. They should take advantage of RSL’s poor form and punch them square in the jaw. An early goal or two should both build confidence and demoralize RSL.

Play Defense: With that being said, it doesn’t work unless the defense can prevent and release the pressure. At this point, we know what we’re working with defensively. The left side is a shambles, with no real competent options there, you have to sort of hope and prey that the rest of the back line can emergency defend when you need them too, and that the offense and possession come through. As for the right side, it’s generally average. Johan Kappelhof has done about as well as he could so far this year, and that side has looked the better of the two this season. In order to win this game, the defense has to be be up to the task, and not blow the game. At least we don’t count on them to win games.

Finish Chances: This has become the refrain of the somber tune that has been the 2019 MLS season. The amount of created chances to goals scored has been astounding in it’s low number. We know the Fire can create chances, and we know the Fire can’t score goals. That has to change if the Men in Red ever want to come out of the wilderness any time soon.

How To Watch

Television: N/A

Streaming: ESPN+

Final Thoughts

I really have no idea. RSL’s recent results show that this could be a great day for the Fire. However, the lack of good vibes from the Chicago XI has me thinking otherwise. I’m a coward so I’m picking a draw. 2-2 scoreline.

How do you think this is going to shake out? Let us know in the comments below!