It’s been a long time since we’ve had expectations that the Chicago Fire should win games. For the last several years, wins were bonuses that made going through the season easier, but we never went into a game, except maybe against the worst of the worst, expecting the team to win.
That’s all changed now. After 3 wins in a row, this team now has the weight of success on them. They’re back in the playoff race. And if the results all go their way everywhere else, a win against Atlanta will put them above the playoff line for the first time this season where being above the playoff line was relevant.
The Fire have to continue to prove that they’re a playoff contender and continue to meet our ever higher expectations.
Chicago Fire all-time MLS record vs Atlanta United: 4W-0D-6L, 16 GF / 18 GA, 12 pts out of 30
Chicago Fire home MLS record vs Atlanta United: 4W-0D-1L, 13 GF / 3 GA, 13 pts out of 15
Atlanta is hanging on by a thread. They’re still in the playoff hunt, as are most teams in the East, but they’re trending downward. They’ve won once in July, a 2-1 win against RSL on the 13th, and are coming off a loss to 7th place LA Galaxy last weekend. Their most dangerous player historically, Josef Martinez has seemingly been on the outs. He has not started since their 3-0 loss to Austin FC and him questioning the heart of his teammates and higher-ups in the organization. Ronaldo Cisneros has started ahead of him, and it hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing for the Five Stripes since the change.
What is there to say? Gaston Gimenez is listed as questionable in the Availability Report as of Friday, so to be safe, I placed Mauricio Pineda in the lineup for precautionary reasons. Also, despite my assistance that in general Gaston is a player you want in the lineup, salary aside, It’s hard to refute the fact that the Fire are playing well without him.
At left back, I like having the more defensive-minded Bornstein in to start the game, but a Miguel Navarro start as long has he has a short leash won’t lead to complaints from me. As for the front four, I’d love to get Jairo Torres a start, but Guti has been playing so well that it’s hard to justify doing it. This feels close to if not the best XI the Fire can put out right now.
Keys To The Match
Control The Tempo: Of all the halves of soccer the Fire have played over the last few games, the first half against Vancouver has to probably be my favorite. 70% possession, a lead at the half, and a complete muzzling of the opposition. Obviously, the Whitecaps were a bit complicit in that performance. They were (successfully) sandbagging for their Canadian Cup Final in midweek. But even so, that’s how I want my soccer team to play.
Against Atlanta, who will not be playing with the understanding that there’s a bigger game to come, this has the potential to demoralize them to the point where they don’t want to play anymore. It already feels like the end of an era at Atlanta. The Fire have a chance to accelerate the process by squeezing the life out of them. Keep the ball, make them expand more energy by defending, and take their chances clinically. If they do those things, they should walk away with 3 more points.
Be Disciplined: The real danger the Fire have to deal with is themselves. Not necessarily on defense, although 90 minutes of focus on defense is a part of it. What I’m actually talking about is out-of-game stuff. The stupid yellows for kicking the ball away on a restart or yelling at the referee for no damn reason has to stop. Ezra Hendrickson and Rafael Czichos need to get their players to stop bitching at perceives officiating slights and play above the whistle. These things are eventually going to cost them again like they did earlier on in the season unless they stop. And with them playing some good football, now would be the time to do it.
How To Watch
Streaming: CF97 Live/ Chicago Fire App
The Fire are better. Atlanta has never won in Chicago. This should be an easy win. 2-0 Fire.