So here we are. The Fire are nominally in a playoff race going into the final few games of the season. However, unlike the last few times this season, it’s not because the league has failed to pull away from a bad team. It’s because the Fire are good enough to be there, at least, on paper.
Instead of not having a creative spark in their midfield, they now have four of them with three attacking spots. They have two strikers who can score goals if given opportunities and they have a goalkeeper and defense who don’t give up much. This team is in a better position to accomplish this run than in any year prior and the schedule is ready to accommodate them.
Aside from the return match in Quebec, the other 6 games after this one are all 6-point games. They play every other team in the playoff race alongside them— a perfect opportunity to seal a playoff spot on their terms and not have to scoreboard watch.
This game against Montreal is just the prologue for everything that comes after.
Chicago Fire home/away MLS record vs CF Montreal: 5W-3D-2L, 17 GF / 11 GA, 18 pts out of 30
Montreal is unbeaten in their last seven games, winning two in a row and five of them overall. They’ve also been dominant in their performances, outscoring their opponents 14-6. They put a four spot last weekend at home against New England, and that was without star talisman Djordje Mihailovic.
Speaking of, the big news of this week is that the former Fire homegrown’s move to AZ Alkmaar in Holland is finished. However, Montreal managed to secure his services for the stretch run and the playoffs. This next iteration of the Djordje Revenge tour is full speed ahead. Expect him to start on Saturday after the resolution of his transfer saga.
This is what the probable lineup will be if Carlos Teran can’t go. I prefer Jonathan Bornstein coming in to play emergency center-back instead of Pineda because of the Injury, But it’s just as likely that Pineda plays at CB instead and someone like Fabian Herbers starts in the double pivot instead. As for everyone else, I’d give it one more game for the front four to get right before making any changes.
However, in a twitter spaces chat earlier today, Ezra Hendrickson told Tyler Terens that they were thinking about putting Jairo Torres in the middle, something I’ve been advocating for months. That could kick start the Fire down the stretch, and I’d be excited to see it. It would mean fewer touches from Shaqiri and a breakup of the Shaq Mueller connection, but maybe something different could help.
Keys To The Match
Control the Midfield: The biggest issue from last week was that NYCFC won the midfield early and the Fire were never able to circumvent it or win it back. That can’t happen again versus Montreal. The Fire need to disrupt and fill the spaces when they don’t have the ball like they did when they won all those games in a row to get back into the playoff race. From there, they can create scoring chances by controlling possession and making players like Mihailovic play defense and tire themselves out. From there spaces and shooting lanes will open up, and the goals should come. The Fire’s offense when they have the opportunity to create chances is still dangerous
Set Piece Defending: If they manage to shut down Montreal’s impact during the run of play, the next phase of winning football is to stop them from scoring on set pieces. Because of Mihailovic and others, Montreal are dangerous when they have a dead ball. This means the Fire need to not take risks when defending around the box. They need to let players run parallel to the box and step into passing lanes instead of trying to make lunging tackles unless the Fire defenders can do it safely. But if it happens, they need to know where their marks are and communicate with each other to not let Montreal’s players get free, because you know that Dhjordje’s service is going to be quality.
How To Watch
Time: 7:00 PM
Streaming: cf97 Live/Chicago Fire App
This isn’t quite a must-win game for the Fire, but losing this game at home would mean they have no margin for error going forward. With games at Columbus and Montreal being the next hardest games on the schedule, the Fire needs to come away with at least a point.
Fire 2-Montreal 0.