After what turned out to be a disastrous preseason that left a large swathe of the Chicago Fire roster injured, and international campaigns taking away key members of the Fire roster, we’re finally all back together. Ignacio Aliseda and Przemyslaw Frankowski are playing together again. Luka Stojanovic finally seems to be at 100%. It’s go time for the Fire. They have the perfect opportunity to turn this thing around against a good team that’s also struggling.
I’d love to be able to steel that first paragraph more convincingly, but the problems are deeper and more complex to solve than just getting their first choice line up out there. The lapses on defense are not going away. The coaches don’t know how to fix it and the players are incapable of fixing it themselves. The Star DP striker has lost “it” in a way that it’s doubtful he’ll ever get “it” back. Turning it around is going to take a level of grit and grind that I don’t think this team has.
Things are dire, and it’s not going to change anytime soon.
Chicago Fire all-time MLS record vs Atlanta United: 3W-0D-X5L, 12 GF / 14 GA, 9 pts out of 24
Chicago Fire home MLS record vs Atlanta United: 3W-0D-1L, 10 GF / 3 GA, 9 pts out of 12
Atlanta find themselves in a tough spot. They’re currently 10th in the east and are 0W-4D-1L in their last five games. In that time, their offense and defense both have been unable to get an edge. Every time they score, they manage to give up goals. When they have a good defensive performance, they can’t score.
Finally, we get the lineup we’ve been kind of waiting for since the team got together in the preseason. Aside from Stanislav Ivanov being in the lineup, this is what we were promised at the beginning of the season as the best XI. Yes, Kappelhof has lost a step, but he’s still a good close-out defende,r and is good at reading passing lanes. Frankie is back from the Euros and played well in his cameo against the Union, so he should be able to claim his starting spot.
Keys To The Match
Build on Last Week: The Fire played well last week against Philadelphia. They gave up 2 goals scored by the other team again, but on offense, they created dangerous chance after dangerous chance. Now it’s time to build on that and actually score from the run of play.
We’ve talked ad nauseam about Robert Beric and his lack of confidence and the team’s lack of confidence in him, but now with everyone back, it’s time for our number 9 to put the big boy pants on and get out of his head. He doesn’t really need to do it for the Fire’s sake, but for his own.
Be Good on Transition: This is the one constant problem I haven’t really talked about this season yet, but the Fire need to be better in transition on both sides of the ball. Defensively, this is where most of the mistakes are made. Too often the center backs are left on an island trying to defend in 2 on 1 and 3 on 2 situations when the fullbacks are caught upfield. The outside defenders need to be a bit more cautious going up field, and they need to take care of the ball better. So do Medran and Luka. Fewer mistakes and turnovers will lead to fewer counterattacks and better defense.
On offense, they need to play faster when they get the ball. There are times when they create a turnover and then stop to keep possession instead of going for a scoring opportunity. When your main focus is keeping control of the game by controlling possession, that’s fine. But at this point, the club needs to be taking advantage of every opportunity to get a shot on goal. Possession is nice, but possession without purpose is just another name for stat padding. It’s time to fight for 3 points.
How To Watch
Streaming: CFFC Live (in the Chicago market)/ ESPN+ (Everywhere Else)
I think this is probably going to be an entertaining competitive game, but the Fire are going to come up short 2-1.