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Turning the Corner: Nashville SC vs Chicago Fire 2021 MLS Preview

MLS: Chicago Fire at Nashville SC Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

For the last 3 games, the Chicago Fire have played the way we hoped coming into training camp. They’re smooth on the ball, taking advantage of the chances they’re creating, and the defense has been much improved over the last three games. But one of the big criticisms in this good run of games is that the Fire hasn’t really competed against a proper team. Their wins came against Atlanta and Orlando who didn’t have or play their first-choice XI, and their draw against Philadelphia came against an exhausted Union squad.

That trend continues here. Nashville is without their star defender in Walker Zimmerman, who was last seen captaining the US Men’s National Team against Martinique. Alistair Johnston and Anibal Godoy are also on Gold Cup duty. But don’t think this game will be easy. Nashville still has former Fire fan favorites Dax McCarty and CJ Sapong and some potent attackers in Alex Muyl and Daniel Lovitz at wingback.

This is going to be a hard match for the Fire, but if they do come away with a result, it would go a long way to proving that they’ve rounded the corner and can now be considered the competitive soccer club we all thought they could be at the start of the season.

Chicago Fire all-time MLS record vs Nashville FC:0W-1D-0L, 1 GF / 1 GA, 1 pts out of 3

Chicago Fire away MLS record vs Nashville FC: 0W-1D-0L, 1 GF / 1 GA, 1 pts out of 3

Previously on…

Nashville SC are a strange team. They don’t lose— they’ve done it once all year, a 2 nil loss to the New York Red Bulls. But they haven’t done a lot of winning either. They’ve only won four games against the Revs, TFC, Austin, and Philadelphia and all of those games were close. They were all one-goal games except for New England, who they beat 2-0 before the Nations League break.

Suggested Lineup

Let’s talk about Gastón Giménez. If you’re looking at the roster on paper, he’s almost always a guaranteed starter. He’s an experienced international who has good passing completion statistics (82.9%) and decent but not great dual win percentage (50%). However, in his last few starts before leaving for Copa America, he looked poor. He was turning the ball over at midfield often enough for it to be a problem and seemed lethargic pushing forward.

However, his runout 10 days ago was much better. He looked refreshed and ready to go, and he seemed to fit into the team’s single defensive midfielder role better than he ever did playing in the double pivot of the 4-2-3-1. With 10 days to gameplan and get focused, there probably won’t be a better time to start him and see if he can contribute like we think he can and his designated player tag suggests.

Meanwhile, I had a hard time figuring out whether to start Luka or Frankowski. I ultimately started Frankowski because his speed and quickness can help unlock a Walker Zimmerman-less Nashville defense, and his performances recently since coming back from the Euros have been unimpeachable.

Keys To The Match

Be Disciplined: Nashville is a good team, but they will give up goal-scoring opportunities to their opponents. Until those opportunities present themselves. the Fire need to stay compact and not let Nashville’s engine room get into high gear. They need to keep Dax McCarty off the ball as much as possible and not let CJ Sapong and Hany Mukhtar get in behind them. If they can do that, they can take advantage of Zimmerman not being there and push forward on counters or take control of the game with their own sustained possession.

Play Wide on Offense: Nashville likes to run a similar style to the Fire. They, too, play with 3 CBs and wing-backs on the touch line who like to get forward. This means that whichever team can control the sideline will control the game and probably end up winning. There will be space over the top into the corners. Aliseda and Frankowski need to find joy in those pockets vacated by the wingbacks so the Fire can do some damage on the counterattack.

Try to Build on the Last Couple of Games: The truth is, we don’t know how the 10 days in between games are going to affect the squad. There’s a potential for the Fire to lose a bit of rhythm and momentum that their last 3 games' unbeaten run has gained. The Fire needs to not let that happen. Robert Beric especially needs to build upon his goal and score a few more in the next few days alongside doing all the hold-up play and passing that’s kept him productive during his goal drought. Without that hard work pressuring the defense, it’s going to be a long night.

How To Watch

Television: WGN TV

Streaming: CFFC Live/ ESPN+ (Out of Market)

Final Thoughts

This game is going to be very competitive, and if recent trends hold, it will probably be a draw. But I think the Fire can take advantage of the lack of Walker Zimmerman and squeak out a win on the road. 3-2 Final score.