This Saturday marks the 11th meeting between the Chicago Fire FC and Atlanta United FC. Each team has five wins against the other, with 0 draws. With the addition of Jairo Torres and the way Atlanta is playing as of late, the Fire could break the tie. However, don’t put it past the Fire if they drew or add another loss to the tally.
In the return of our throwback series, let’s board the Hot Time Phonewave Time Machine (name subject to change) to go back in time and reminisce when the two clubs faced each other for the first time.
On March 18th, 2017, the Chicago Fire went down to Georgia to face one of the new kids on the block, Atlanta United FC. It was their second-ever home game— then played at the home of Georgia Tech; Bobby Dodd Stadium, as the Mercedes Benz Stadium was not complete yet. Their first home game (and their first competitive MLS match) was a 2-1 loss against the New York Red Bulls. The following week they beat fellow expansion side Minnesota United FC 1-6. Three of those goals came courtesy of Josef Martinez, a name that would haunt other MLS sides in the future.
Meanwhile, the Men in Red were fresh from a 2-0 win against Real Salt Lake City. Previously, they drew 1-1 against the Columbus Crew for the season opener. With a relatively strong start to the season, there was optimism in the air, as rumors were swelling around Bastian Schweinsteiger would be singing with the Fire.
Both clubs had something to prove before coming to this match. Atlanta needed to show they belonged in MLS, while the Fire yearned to return to the glory years, especially with the impending arrival of a German legend.
In front of a nearly packed crowd of forty-six thousand, the Fire immediately went back to their old habits. Atlanta took the lead within four minutes, courtesy of an own-goal from Brandon Vincent. The ball deflected off Vincent’s foot from a shot by Jullian Gressel. A few minutes later, Johan Kappelhof was issued a red as he took down Martinez. Nearly everyone thought the decision was questionable, but that red later proved to be part of the Fire’s collapse.
Things went from bad to worse during the second half. Miguel Almiron caught Jonathan Campbell and João Meira off-guard and passed the ball to Martinez, who slotted it for the second goal during the 60th minute. Then in the 67th minute, Greg Garza crossed in a ball to the box where Hector Villalba scored the third goal. Martinez - again - completed the rout with his second and overall fourth goal of the game a few moments later.
The Fire picked themselves up from this loss, for the next three games saw two wins and one draw, while Atlanta drew twice and lost once. Both clubs would meet again on June 10th, where the Fire would win 2-0.
On a personal note, it is great to write again for Hot Time after nearly a three-year hiatus. For those who remember me from my earlier days on this site or know me from the Hot Cast, I hope I can provide good content for all of you to enjoy.