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Fire and Ice: Chicago Fire vs Vancouver Whitecaps MLS Week 22 Preview

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Chicago Fire Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

For whatever reason, the Chicago Fire have always had a difficult time against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Since the ‘Caps entered the league, the Fire have only ever beaten them twice... and never in Vancouver. The Men in Red have never ever won an MLS game in Cascadia before, but will have a chance to change that this week as they face Vancouver for the first time in two years.

Few Fire memories of the last few seasons are more gut-wrenching than that last meeting, the infamous 2-0 loss at the MLS is Back Tournament. The Fire totally dominated that game, out-shooting their opponents 27-4, but still managed to find a way to lose as Vancouver scored twice after a lengthy weather delay. Only six of the fourteen players who played for the Fire that day are still with the club, though.

Returning to the present, and there are certainly some reasons for optimism in the Fire camp. Their playoff hopes — while still slim — were kept alive by back-to-back wins at home against Toronto and Seattle, and they are now just four points out of the playoff places. With that being said, the Fire still have a huge mountain to climb to make the playoffs and will need to start picking up points on the road. This Vancouver game will provide a great opportunity to do just that, and a win on turf a BC Place would be a total game-changer for this season.

Chicago Fire all-time MLS record vs Vancouver Whitecaps: 2W-3D-6L, 12 GF / 16 GA, 8 pts out of 33

Chicago Fire away MLS record vs Vancouver Whitecaps: 0W-0D-4L, 6 GF / 12 GA, 0 pts out of 12

Previously on…

The Whitecaps have had a resurgent few months, and remain firmly in the Western Conference playoff picture despite a rocky start to the season. From Vancouver’s perspective, though, this game has an added element, in that they will play the Canadian Championship final merely three days later. While getting a result against Chicago is important for their playoff chase, a win over Toronto on Tuesday would secure a place in the CONCACAF Champions League next season, so there may be some rotation. Regardless of how they line up, the Whitecaps will be a difficult team to play against and a strong test for this young Fire group.

Suggested Lineup

There is no reason for the Fire to make whole-sale changes to the lineup from last week’s win over Seattle, but a few changes have been forced. Gastón Giménez has been ruled out due to injury, so Mauricio Pineda will, in all likelihood, slide into the lineup in central midfield next to Fede Navarro. Jhon Durán will be available following his return from a minor ankle injury, and assuming is ready to start, he absolutely should come in for Kacper Przybyłko.

The only other change to the XI could be at left back, with Miguel Ángel Navarro replacing Jonathan Bornstein. Navarro was dropped from the XI by the coach’s decision last week for the first time this season, but he’ll likely return this weekend. In addition, the artificial turf in Vancouver is not ideal for the 37-year-old Bornstein. The rest of the lineup stays the same, with Brian Gutiérrez keeping his position as he has been in great form.

Keys To The Match

Counter attacks: Vancouver have been extremely susceptible lately in transition and on the counter, so with Jhon Durán up top this is an area that the Fire should exploit. Durán, Brian Gutiérrez, and Chris Mueller have all been effective at winning the ball high up the field, while at his best, Xherdan Shaqiri is one of the best playmakers in the league. If opportunities like this present themselves, the Fire have to take them.

Go the full 90: At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter when you score or how you play as long as the three points are secured. But in the last three games, even though the Fire have picked up six points, they have been very underwhelming in the second half. Not one of the Fire’s five goals last week came in the second 45, the they admittedly needed Gaga Slonina to bail them out a couple times down the stretch against Toronto and Seattle. If the Fire can banish their reputation as a first-half team, and control the tempo for the whole match, that is a more sustainable way to get points on the board.

How To Watch

Time: 9:00PM

Television: WGN-TV

Streaming: cf97 Live/ cf97 App

Final Thoughts

The Fire have been very underwhelming on the road this season, and this certainly seems like a game they would go ahead and find a way to lose 2-0 or 3-0. However, with injuries thinning the squad and a cup final right around the corner, it seems like the Fire may have a shot here. And riding the optimism of the past week, I’ll go ahead and predict a 2-1 Fire win.