The first game back went about as well as I expected. The Fire showed some promise against what is ostensibly the best team in the league but by the final whistle, they were undone by mental mistakes and an MLS goal of the year nomination.
If it feels like deja vu, that’s probably because to some extent it is. We’re used to games like last Thursday. This team has been stuck in neutral since 2017, always playing well but are unable to do what is necessary to get to the next level. At some point, they’re going to have to beat a good team in a non tournament setting if they want to achieve their dreams.
This game is not that. This week, they get to go on a bit of confidence building bum slaying. FC Cincinnati played well in the bubble, managing to get six points against a free falling Atlanta and a Red Bulls squad that are going through some changes. Regardless of that, I don’t think anyone believes that FCC are really any good. This game is a must win for the Fire because anything other than a win means that this team isn’t just not finding their form, it means that they’re actively bad and that something has gone horribly wrong.
That’s not something the fans, the front office, or club as a whole can afford.
Chicago Fire MLS record vs FC Cincinnati: 0W-1D-1L, 1 GF / 2 GA, 1 pts out of 6
Chicago Fire home MLS record vs FC Cincinnati: 0W-1D-0L, 1 GF / 1 GA, 1 pt out of 3
FCC come into this match after back to back draws, one of which caused their exit from the MLS is Back Tournament. They did however win two games against the Red Bulls and Atlanta United in the group stage.
There’s no Sapong again, so they’re probably going to just run it back from last week.
Keys To The Match
Assert Your Dominance: FC Cincinnati is not a good team. Do not let them making it out of the group stage at the MLS is Back tournament fool you. The team is closer to the 4-0 loss at Columbus than the 2-1 win against NYRB. I expect 90 minutes of dominance from the Fire. They should control possession with ease and have no problem completing passes. Most of the game should take place in Cincy’s half of the field, especially with Cincy likely to sit in a very low block.
If this is not the case, than there is truly something wrong in the way the coaching staff approach the team and its players.
Beric needs to Stay Inside: All of that being said, my biggest concern is where the goals are going to come from. Robert Beric has a tendency to leave his post and get outside the six yard box. This is a problem because there’s no one to fill that space who can reliably score goals. Someone on the coaching staff, Wicky or Klopas, or someone else, need to stop him from chasing the game. With the way they play, they need to have him inside to get on to crosses and through balls. If they don’t do that, they won’t score. If they don’t score, they won’t win games.
Don’t lose the Plot: I say this pretty much every week and I’m going to keep saying it until they stop doing it. They need to stop making mental errors. Two of the three goals against Columbus were given up due to mental errors by a member of the team. The first goal was given up when Frankowski stopped tracking Etienne’s run in the box. And the third goal was Brian Gutierrez not tracking back to contest the through pass, as well as lazy defending on Zarde’s run.
This kind of stuff is what makes Fire fans and observers throw their hats in disgust and complain about nothing changing and everything being the same as a decade ago even though it’s not true. This Fire team is probably the second best team behind the 2017 team that was fighting for the supporters shield, but small mistakes snowballing into big consequences make that argument seem absurd. Until they stop making these kinds of errors, they’ll never be the team that they think they can be.
How To Watch
Television: WGN (Local Only)
The Fire should win big, but scoring goals is still a problem. That means that a big scoring night, something that should be out of the question. That means it’s going to be a win, but not a terribly big one. 2-0 Fire.