Somehow, the Fire have had both their best start in years and the worst start in years.
They have not allowed a goal yet this season. The defense has shuffled between good and excellent, and the players brought in on that side of the ball, specifically the team’s new captain Rafael Czichos, have transformed the leakiest backline in the world into one of the stingiest. Last week against Orlando, they held their opponents to a .2 xGoals, and against Miami, they held them to an xGoals under 1 for an hour. It’s completely different from last year, in a good way.
The flipside is that the offense is bad. Like .4 xGoals against Orlando with by far the majority of possession over most of the game bad. The attack has been, for the most part, toothless, with problems stretching defenses and creating space for their skill players to go to work. They've also had trouble finding Kacper Przybylko, their big striker signing of the offseason. The Fire must find a way to get him more involved and get him going.
Chicago Fire away MLS record vs DC United: 9W-6D-18L, 43 GF / 43 GA, 33 pts out of 96
DC are one of two perfect teams in the East, having gotten maximum points over their first two games; a 3-0 trouncing of Charlotte FC in their debut, and a 1-0 win over FC Cincinnati.
Their win against Cincy was marred by the sending off of Moses Nyeman, who as a consequence, will be suspended for Saturday, as well as the fact that they needed a penalty in the 8th minute of second-half stoppage time to secure the 3 points.
I’m going to defend Gastón Giménez for a minute. The things he’s good at, controlling possession, working out of tight spaces, and apparently this season, chasing down attackers, are things the Fire need on the pitch to be successful. As long has he doesn’t have to defend a static space, he does pretty well.
That said, he and Mauricio Pineda can’t play together, because their skillsets and jobs are too similar. Luckily for the team, Fede Navarro is back fit and ready to start. He’s a destroyer, which should free up Giménez to do more of the things he’s good at and less of the things he’s bad at.
Meanwhile, Brian Gutierrez or Jhon Durán should start, full stop. This is no disrespect to Fabian Herbers, who has a motor that doesn’t stop and he has no quit. But the fact is that the Fire has been having trouble creating chances, and having a more creative option in the beginning of the game, only to switch to having Herbers be fresh legs seems more optimal than starting him.
Keys To The Match
Counterattack: DC United are going to give up opportunities, and the Fire have to capitalize on them. We know from experience the kind of space a 3 man backline creates on the flanks, especially on the counter, and the Men in Red need to be ready to go fast and precise. That’s not to say it’s easy. They’ve had notable trouble doing just that, but the fact that there should be slightly more space to maneuver should help counter the Fire’s lack of speed and help create more scoring chances.
Don’t Get Stretched: On defense, the Fire needs to cut off half the field and defend from there. DC like to take advantage of their 3 back system using their width, so the Fire need to split the field in half vertically, and take away the long switches. Make DC play on the deck and jump into the passing lanes to regain possession; that’s how the Fire are going to win this game.
How To Watch
Streaming: CFFC Live/ ESPN+
Would it be weird if I said another scoreless draw? Because it looks like the Fire and DC is going to be another scoreless draw.