It seems like the Fire might have to hold off on the “We-Bolstered-The-Squad” party. Thursday Jairo Torres, who was officially announced on Tuesday, was revealed to have some sort of muscle injury, and Chris Mueller won’t be available until the next home game against FC Cincinnati. That leaves Saturday’s match in a little bit of purgatory. The attack isn’t going to look like anything that will come after, and the red card suspension for Rafael Czichos means that the defense won’t be in its complete form either.
What we have then is an interesting opportunity fo the old Fire to convince us that the foundation that was built for the reinforcements to enter to was a good one. Prove to us that the last two weeks were the aboration and not the norm.
Chicago Fire away MLS record vs Atlanta United: 0W-0D-4L, 2 GF / 11 GA, 0 pts out of 12
Atlanta is in a similar spot to the Fire, if not slightly better. Whereas the Fire hasn’t won since March 19, Atlanta hasn’t won since the next match day on April 2nd. Since then they’re 0-1-3 in the league; their only reprieve was a 6-0 beating of Chattanooga in the Open Cup 3rd round. And in MLS, they haven’t scored more than one goal in games where they do score since March 19th.
It doesn't help that their injury list could read like an All-Star Game selection. Josef Martinez is still out for another month plus after knee surgery. Brad Guzan is out with an Achilles injury. And Ozzie Alonso is out for the season with an ACL injury. Atlanta is down and ripe for the picking.
The revelation of the Jairo Torres injury yesterday means he is defiantly not going to start (unless it’s a faint) so luckily for my lineup prediction, I had him on the bench anyway, so I didn’t expect him to crack the lineup no matter how hard I wanted to believe. Chris Mueller probably won’t be available either so we have to wait another week to see the new and improved Fire front line. I thought Offor and Guti did better than any other combination the Fire have put out there this season, though that’s not saying much.
As for the red card adjustments the Fire has to make, Fede is back after his suspension, so Mauricio Pineda can slide right in at center-back. As for Duran, He was an injury replacement, so if Prybylko is healthy he starts. If he’s not, Offor probably starts up to p with Ivanov in on the right, but I hope they give Bazera or Rodriguez the start instead.
Keys To The Match
Pressure the Defense: Atlanta, for all of their problems at the back, including having to play former Fire goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth instead of Brad Guzan, still have a pretty stout defensive unit. Andrew Gutman has become a solid option at left back with Atlanta and Miles Robinson and Brooks Lennon are staunchly within the USMNT player pool. The Fire has to get in quick and fast against them to get scoring opportunities. They also need to take advantage of set pieces and corners they’ll win by doing so.
Get Right in the Mind: The FIre’s mental has been out of sorts for the last two weeks, going back to the match the penalty loss at the Open Cup. It’s not exactly the same thing as the last few seasons where they shut off every game. This time, they just seem exhausted after playing two months at an unsustainably high level. They really haven’t even looked that bad. It’s just the offense hasn’t been able to support good defense, and the defense is overtaxed trying to carry the team to good results. What I want to see most from the defense is a good mental attitude in the face of this adversity. If they keep doing what their doing, maybe if the offense gets right, they can be good going forward.
How To Watch
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If the Fire can get their mental right on defense and get a few more shots on target, they have a shot at 3 points. Unfortunately, I don’t really see that happening. I’m also not sure I would trust Atlanta to break down the Fire defense, despite the lack of Rafael Czichos. I’m going to say it will be a sloppy 0-0 draw.