It’s been a long time since we’ve had the Fire blew a 2-1 lead in Canada against Toronto FC and honestly, the break was nice. We got to concentrate on other pastimes and pursuits and forget how bad the crash was from the promising start to the season. As it stands, the (soon-to-be) Men in Red find themselves in last place in the East and a contender for the club’s Third Wooden spoon in a decade.
But this break meant the Fire could reset a little. According to manager Ezra Hendrickson, the team is well rested and refocused on the season. We’ve seen how good a focused Fire can be. Their streak of clean sheets to open the season may feel far away, but the talent and desire for the defense to play at that high a level again is there, and if the attack picks up where it left off, this could be a really exciting second half of the season. This team has the talent and ability to make the playoffs. They just have to commit themselves and get the job done.
Chicago Fire home MLS record vs D.C. United: 12-13D-7L, 50 GF / 36 GA, 49 pts out of 96
As bad as it’s been for the Fire so far this season, It’s been just as bad for DC United. They haven’t won since May; a 3-2 win over the New England Revolution. Since then, it’s been five losses out of their last seven competitive games, with only two points coming from draws with Toronto and Inter Miami. In the standings, this manifests itself in them being just three points ahead of the Fire.
On top of that, they’ve lost their best player in Edson Flores, who is on his way to Liga MX. Whereas the Fire has had reinforcements come into the squad, D.C. has lost its highest profile piece.
First, the big news. Xherdan Shaqiri was ruled out of the match with an injury he picked up on international duty and Miguel Navarro has entered the health and safety protocol. This means, obviously, that someone is going to have to fill in at CAM and left back. Luckily, Jonathan Bornstein is still on the squad, and still a capable left-back, even if the younger Navarro has taken control of the starting spot.
As for the 10, I think the Fire should start Brian Gutierrez in this situation. Guti has been at his best in the middle, and with two players who can play as true wingers in Mueller and Torres, he should shine in this spot. The other option is to play Fabian Herbers (or Stanislav Ivanov, but that’s not realistic) out wide and move Torres into the number 10 role. I’d be relatively happy with either option, but Guti is a homegrown talent, and I’m a bit biased because of that.
Keys To The Match
Wing Advantage: D.C. play something like a 3-6-2, with the outside wingbacks creating a bank of 4 in front of the back 3 while on defense and pushed up high on the attack. What this means is that there are going to be big spaces on the wings in behind. It’s up to Gimenez and whoever starts at the 10 to get the ball out there, but if they do that successfully, there should be plenty of space to deliver quality balls to Przybylko and whoever else makes attacking runs into the box. But they have to make those runs into the box. It will do no one any good if they get that open space and cross to nobody, or have to pull back and let DC set up with 7 or 8 players behind the ball in the penalty area.
Win the Midfield.: Another consequence of the way DC has lined up is that they have 4 central midfielders instead of two or three. Gastón Giménez and Fede Navarro need to be ready to pass fast and with accuracy. Whoever the 10 is and Pryzbylko need to be ready to drop deep to help out and get the ball wide. The way DC is going to stay in the game is by forcing turnovers in midfield and quickly transitioning into a counterattack. The Fire need to be willing to gum up the middle of the park.
How To Watch
Time and Date: Saturday, June 18th, 7:00 pm
I don’t think anyone would say DC United are a more talented team than the Fire on paper. This could be a route if the Fire don’t waste all their chances. The problem is the Fire are probably going to waste their chances unless they found their striking boots during the 3-week break. 1-1 Draw.