The math on Sunday is simple. If the Fire win, then they’re in. There are multiple other scenarios where the Fire can get in with a draw and a loss, but those will only matter if the Fire are incapable of getting three points in their game. For a team that was put together in about 6 weeks from Christmas 2019 to the end of January, was disrupted by a global pandemic, and playing for an organization that hasn’t been close to relevant for over a decade, that’s a miracle in and of itself.
However, it could have been so much more. At every step of the way, this team has tried to sabotage themselves by either failing to communicate properly, switching off at key moments, or giving up dumb turnovers at inappropriate times. The amount of goals and scoring opportunities the Fire have given up has them in the place they’re in. Without them, the Fire are not only further up the table, but are probably fighting to host a playoff game at Soldier Field.
We can talk more about that after the game, though. Right now it all comes down to tomorrow. The Fire either did enough to get in on the final day, or they didn’t.
Chicago Fire all-time MLS record vs New York City FC: 2W-4D-6L, 14 GF / 22 GA, 10 pts out of 36
Chicago Fire home MLS record vs New York City FC: 2W-2D-1L, 9 GF / 8 GA, 8 pts out of 15
NYCFC are on a heater. They’ve won their last three and only lost once—to Columbus—-in their last five games. This includes a 5-2 walloping of the Red Bulls last Sunday, up and a win over the second best team in the east in Toronto FC. The combined score of those three wins is 9-3.
This is the Fire’s best XI, with apologies to Fabian Herbers who might be better served as an attacker off the bench. Width is still going to be a problem, but Sekulic is feeling himself a little since he scored that goal, and Aliseda and Mihailovic are playing well together. Gimenez and Medran, meanwhile, continue to make the case that they’re the best double pivot in the league and should be a force to reckon with.
Keys To The Match
Play Clean: It’s no secret that the Fire lose to themselves more than other teams beat them. As I said in the open, the Fire have done everything they can to screw themselves out of the playoff opportunity. That has to stop, and there’s no time like the present.
It starts, as these things usually do, form the back. Francisco Calvo and Mauricio Pineda must be close to perfect. NYCFC are on a goal scoring storm at the moment, and it’s going to take every ounce of concentration to defend against their pottant attack, and then transition quickly into attacking intent. From there, it’s up to the offense to actually put the ball into the back of the net when the opportunities present themselves. As Patrick McCraney mentioned earlier in the week, if the Fire had taken advantage of all their scoring opportunities, they would have already secured their spot in the postseason. There’s not a better time to improve on that than now, and they’re going to have to in order to not have to scoreboard watch.
Control the Midfield: It’s no secret that the Fire’s midfield is really good. For all of the mistakes the rest of the team makes, the midfield duo of Gastón Giménez and Álvaro Medrán have been able to bail them out and keep from becoming a complete disaster. And going forward alongside Djordje Mihailovic, they’ve created the bulk of the scoring opportunities.
That has to continue against New York. The Fire need to be in charge of the middle by not letting New York settle into a passing rhythm through the center of the park and force them to the touchlines. The last game they played, they were doing that effectively until they imploded in the second half, so we know the Fire can do it. They just have to do it for a full 90 minutes if they wat to have a chance at winning.
How To Watch
Game Time: 2:30 PM CT
The Fire are going to need some help to get into the playoffs, because with their current form combined with NYCFC, I don’t think they get the three points, However, I don’t think the Fire lose, either. It’s going to finish 2-2.