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Familier Faces: CF Montreal vs Chicago Fire MLS Week 31 Preview

The Fire play Montreal for the second time in 3 weeks down the stretch,

MLS: CF Montreal at Chicago Fire Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

The MLS Schedule is weird. Because of the way the league is structured, you can get situations where you play the same team in close proximity to each other. While it does happen occasionally elsewhere in the world, the 4 game streak between Barca and Madrid comes to mind, only in MLS will you play the same team for the first and second time in the league within the same 30 to 60-day period.

This leads to some interesting coaching and strategy decisions that resemble a playoff series more than that of a traditional league schedule. Games like the one the Fire are about to play against Montreal are more about tactical and coaching adjustments; finding and exploiting the edges around the margins rather than about who is the better team. It’s why I will insist that MLS is a coaches league, rather than a player’s league.

Ezra Hendrickson has an opportunity to level up in this game. Put the relative success or falure of the playoffs aside for a moment. With a game like this, he has the chance to let us see how good of a coach he is, He gets to see what happened against Montreal last time out, make adjustments to the game plan, and communicate it all to his team so they can go out and win this game. He can now show us that he’s the coach to take this club to the next level.

Chicago Fire all-time MLS record vs CF Montreal: 7W-6D-11L, 30 GF / 34 GA, 27 pts out of 66

Chicago Fire away MLS record vs CF Montreal: 2W-3D-8L, 13 GF / 21 GA, 9 pts out of 39

Previously on…

Montreal has played three games since their win against the Fire. and are exactly .500— 1-1-1. They lost to the Red Bulls, beat TFC in a 4-3 thriller, and their draw was against Columbus. Their performances have been up and down and like we said a few weeks ago, are probably the most fragile of the teams that are essentially locked in the playoffs. Quioto and Djordje are still their most dangerous players, with Mihailovic scoring in the win over TFC.

Suggested Lineup

Honestly, this is tough. With only 48 hours of recovery time, I’d ideally like to see some rotation. Still, with the injury situation and the number of kids filling the roster at the moment, it’s really not practical. I could see Andre Reynolds or Jonathan Bornstein in the lineup, rotating the fullbacks, but aside from that, I wouldn’t change a thing. Not even Kacper Przybylko coming in.

Keys To The Match

Play Outside-In: Last time out against Montreal, the Impact were really good at using their center mids to clog the center of the field and the Fire seemed unprepared for it. Because this game is so close to the last time they played, they should be able to make adjustments. Play balls over the top into the corners in classic hockey dump and chase fashion to create space in the middle, then cut the ball back into those spaces for your finishers to finish. Basically, they should do the things they did against Miami.

Limit Turnovers: Montreal’s goals were not scored with any kind of sustained possession last time out. Their first was cut out from a lazy pass and the second was from a free kick on called from a foul that wasn’t a foul. There wasn’t really anything to be done about the second. Buttherer is from the first. No lazy passes allowed. The passing must be crisp and decisive, yes, but they also must be good decisions. If you’re going to concede possession, boot the ball downfield and clear your lines. None of this playing out of the back nonsense and giving up the ball 35 yards from your own goal. Get it out. If they do that, they should be okay.

How To Watch

Time: 6:30 pm

Television: WGN-TV

Streaming: CF97 Live/ ESPN App

Final Thoughts

The Fire did outplay Montreal at Soldier Field despite losing 2-0 the last time they played together. However, this game is in Quebec, and the refereeing probably won’t be as horrible as it was 2 and a half weeks ago. For that reason, I think the Fire’s playoff campaign ends here, but they’ll go down fighting. 2-2 draw.