The Chicago Fire rarely start a match poorly.
They play sound defense for several minutes, and sometimes score some beautiful goals. But there’s usually a moment—sometimes it’s a mistake, other times it’s an act of individual brilliance by the other team, or, maybe just a bit of bad luck—and then the heads drop. We saw that the last time out, a 2-0 defeat to the Red Bulls.
To beat the Philadelphia Union on Saturday—or, pretty much any team in Major League Soccer, really—that will need to stop. Fire fans are, understandably, frustrated.
“The frustration is there with us, as well,” Fire coach Raphael Wicky said. “We are not happy with three games and one point. But it’s a very young season and guys (will be) coming back, and I am sure that we will be better soon.”
Philly is riding high after advancing over Atlanta United in the Concacaf Champions League this week, but like the Fire, they’re limping in MLS thus far—zero wins, one draw, and two losses—including a 2-0 loss to New York’s other team, NYCFC. So which Union team will show up on Saturday?
After a week of pushing Alvaro Medran to the wing, I predict Wicky brings him back to central midfield against Philly. I’m going to be optimistic and say the questionable Miguel Navarro gets the start at left back, with Jonathan Bornstein ready to come on if needed. I’m also predicting Wicky will give Elliot Collier a start on the left, and Pineda will slot into his old right-sided centerback position, giving Johan Kappelhof a rest. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if Fabian Herbers gets a few minutes as a sub for the first time this season. Herbers is listed as questionable, and has been slowly integrating with the team this week.
Will I be right about any of this? We’ll see.
New Injury/Availability report: safe to say something happened in the Slonina household. Hope they're well.— Patrick McCraney (@patrickmccraney) May 7, 2021
Fabian Herbers and Miguel Navarro are both questionable, so there's a glimmer of hope there.#cffc #cf97 pic.twitter.com/dT7y0pJkrc
Keys to the Game
Finish chances, especially early - Too many times already this season, we’ve said “well, if Beric had only scored that chance where he hit the woodwork,” or “if Frankowski had only hit that sitter from 12 years out”. Enough of that. The Fire need to finish easy scoring chances, and put the pressure on early.
Be a Goldfish - At some point during the match, the Fire will make a mistake defensively. It’s bound to happen. If it results in a goal, the team needs to take Ted Lasso’s advice, and “Be a Goldfish.” Forget about it immediately. Do not crumble. Stay focused for all 90 minutes.
Keep Running - On the road against both Atlanta and the Red Bulls, as the team started to lose, the players’ legs looked heavy. Philly may have one point, and this is back at Soldier Field, but the Fire need to be locked in for the entire match. Whatever the score, the team must continue to run hard. Gaston Gimenez, Alvaro Medran, and whoever plays out wide must track back and defend, and take some of the pressure off the Fire’s back four.
How to Watch
Streaming: CFFC Live (free in the Chicago market on ChicagoFireFC.com and the Chicago Fire app), ESPN+ for fans watching out of market
Brian Battle gave Fire fans a glimmer of hope with this weird stat:
Here's a crazy #CF97 stat: The Chicago Fire are nearly unstoppable in Match Day 4. Four wins, 1 draw, 1 loss dating back to 2015. That's a PPG of 2.17 — That is nearly double their AVG points-per-game during this period (1.10). #CFFC— Actual Name: Brian B. (@OwenGoal) May 6, 2021
For that reason, I say this one ends 3-2 Fire. The Fire will go up 3-0, Philly will drag themselves back in to the match with two goals, but Chicago takes all three points.