I can’t wait for Sunday.
The Chicago Fire’s 2-1 win over the defending champions Tuesday morning has had me excited for the next match like I haven’t been since 2017. This team is good. Period. They’re not just “good in comparison with previous seasons” or “good against bad teams.” This club has quality up and down the roster.
The midfield, for example, is so stacked that the Fire’s third designated player Ignacio Aliseda is losing out on playing time not because he’s bad but because the competition for spots is so fierce. Robert Beric is scoring goals and game after game, is eschewing my concerns about whether or not he can produce on the field. We’ve spilled dozens of virtual ink bottles singing the praises of Mauricio Pineda, and that hype train doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
The Fire have a chance to clinch their birth into the knockout rounds of this tournament with a win Sunday, and they deserve nothing less. If the 2020 season had gone as planned this could have been a special year for the club, and despite everything going on, it still could be.
While this is only the Fire’s second game of the tournament, The ‘Quakes find themselves in the finale of their tournament. Their scoreless draw in their opener against the Sounders was indicative of the early games of the tournament, chaotic and underwhelming. Their 4-3 thriller against the Whitecaps, on the other hand, was a classic MLS goal fest. San Jose are on 4 points and are looking to finish first in the group.
I’m acquiescing to manager Raphael Wicky’s preferred 3-5-2, even though I’d rather they not, especially against the ‘Quakes. Wicky said he only expected to make a few changes for this match, so based on the subs during game one this is my guess on they could line up Sunday night. Navarro came on for Jonathan Bornstein at halftime and played well, while Aliseda might work himself into the XI, depending on how his practice went this week.
Keys To The Match
Control the Tempo: San Jose play man to man defense. When they don’t have the ball, every player on the squad picks up a player and is responsible for defending them. The key to beat them is the same as it is in basketball. Good off the ball movement, and using the ball to tire them out before you do. The Fire need to let the ball do the work while looking for opportunities to break free.
Keep Possession: The reason San Jose can play like this on defense is that they’re not on defense very often. The Quakes are very good at taking care of the ball and letting it do the work. The Fire need to anticipate San Jose’s attack and disrupt passing lanes so as not to let them control the pace.
Discipline Discipline Discipline: The undoing of the Vancouver Whitecaps in their 4-3 loss was the lack of awareness on defense in second half extra time. The Fire need to play 90+ minutes of full focused soccer. They need to keep mistakes to a minimum and be ready to pick up the pieces when the inevitable Francisco Calvo brain fart happens.
How To Watch
Television: FS1 (added crowd noise)/ TUDN/ TSN (Canada)/ FreeSports (UK)
Streaming: Fox Sports App (natural sound)/ TUDN app/ TSN App (Canada)
The game is going to be hard fought, but I really like the Fire’s chances. I’m going to say 3-2 final score. The Fire get the Dub and advance to the next round.