Following the international break, the Chicago Fire will return to action after a three-week hiatus as they host D.C. United this Saturday at Soldier Field.
Chicago’s most recent result - which feels like three months ago - was that devastating 3-2 loss at Toronto FC, while D.C. are coming off a tough 4-1 loss at the hands of the New York Red Bulls.
Here’s what to look for out of this weekend’s matchup in the Gerber Collision and Glass Scouting Report…
CHAD’S AT IT AGAIN
For a second time in the past three years, Chad Ashton is the interim manager for D.C. United, after the club and Hernan Losada parted ways back on April 20.
D.C. had just beaten Flower City in the 2022 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, but had lost their fourth consecutive game in league play a few days earlier.
Since Ashton has taken over, he has led the Red and Black to a 2-3-2 record, sitting just three points above the Fire in the Eastern Conference table. A big reason for this bump in form is Taxi Fountas, D.C.’s Greek Designated Player. Taxi has only played seven games, but has already registered five goals and three assists.
Between the new coach bump and the arrival of Fountas, this United team does look more dangerous. Unfortunately, the Greek international has been dealing with back spasms. He missed D.C.’s game against Red Bulls before the international break, then was not able to play for Greece in their Nations League matches.
Ashton has stuck with the three-back system that Losada implemented, but his side haven’t won a game since May 7 against the Houston Dynamo.
In addition to the formation, the style of play that Losada employed can still be seen under Ashton. United still want to press you high up the field and break extremely quickly with numbers going the other way.
Ecuadorian loanee Michael Estrada has been sharing starts with Ola Kamara at the No. 9 position, while Peruvian DP Edison Flores and Fountas have been tucked in just behind whoever is occupying the striker role.
This front three, when healthy, is very dangerous and can be ruthless in the penalty area. However, it has been the D.C. defense that has been their undoing as of late.
United have conceded more set piece goals than any team in MLS, and are consistently giving up multiple goals per game. D.C. are fifth worst in the East in goals allowed, with Steve Birnbaum, Brenden Hines-Ike and Donovan Pines typically occupying the three center-back positions.
It has been a long 21 days for the Fire following the loss at BMO Field, but it was a necessary break for the group.
Hopefully the international window provided the boys with an opportunity to reset with friends, family, and loved ones.
Obviously, the results haven’t been ideal for the past few months, and it has left Chicago with a smaller margin for error heading into the final 20 games of the season. This hard reset for the Fire could be exactly what they need to get their first win in quite some time.
This D.C. team is in a similar boat in both the standings and with regard to current form, so it will not be an easy task. Taking care of the ball is always important against a team like D.C. who love to get after you.
Taking advantage of set pieces - which DC have proven to be vulnerable on - and continuing the same sort of attacking prowess shown in the Toronto game will certainly yield a strong result.
I’ll be watching as a fan, just like you, as the game with be broadcast on TUDN and Twitter (English feed) on Saturday at 7 p.m. CT. See you guys at Soldier. VAMOS!