Following one of the most dominant performances in club history (statistically speaking), the Fire will head to Chester, PA on Sunday to take on the Philadelphia Union for the third time this year.
Chicago tied a club record of 31 shots against Toronto on Saturday night, and forced Alex Bono into 14 saves. They dominated almost every single statistic available, except for the big one – getting the win. They registered a walloping 3.5 xG (expected goals), and Ignacio Aliseda had one of those to himself.
Safe to say, it was a bad day at the finishing office. The Fire will go again this weekend against Jim Curtin’s crew, who are fresh off a disappointing draw against a reeling Inter Miami squad that sits at the bottom of the Eastern Conference table.
Here’s what to look for when Chicago take on the defending Supporter’s Shield champions along the Delaware River.
Sunday will mark the third time these teams have met in 2021, and we are not even half way through the season yet.
The first meeting was back on May 8th when the Fire fell 2-0 at Soldier Field in what was an intriguing fixture. Philly scored relatively early in the second half off of a throw-in, and the Fire nearly equalized through Robert Berić just a few minutes later. Philadelphia took advantage of a missed opportunity from the Fire and scored on another set piece - this time from a corner - and essentially put the game on ice. Chicago would have a few chances down the stretch, but it was not meant to be.
The second edition of this fixture was just a few weeks ago, a 3-3 draw on June 26. The Fire took a lead, went down 2-1 quickly, went up 3-2, then fell victim to an own goal that leveled the game relatively late for Philly. The Fire scored two of their three goals from set pieces, and that certainly seems to be a theme between the two sides.
The most recent match was also the re-introduction of the three-back system for the Fire.
At this point there’s not too much the Chicago Fire players don’t know about Philly.
It will be a 4-4-2 diamond. Their fullbacks provide the width, as their talented midfielders suck in your defense. Then, they provide delivery for whoever is up top - whether it be Kacper Przybylko, Sergio Santos, Corey Burke or even Daniel Gazdag, who got the start at striker against Miami.
This game will be more about individual battles and desire as opposed to a tactical chess match. Both teams know what the other is about and they’re going to get after it. The last five meetings between these two teams have featured at least two goals. I imagine this game will follow the pattern of the previous affairs.
KEEPING IT IN PERSPECTIVE
The last two matches have been wildly frustrating, probably more so than any of the other games this season (yes, that includes Nashville).
These last two matches have been agonizing because the Fire did almost everything right, except getting the result. In the 2-2 draw with D.C. on the 21st, it was just a matter of one or two more full clearances and maybe a third goal to ice the game.
Toronto was an onslaught from the moment the Yefferson Soteldo goal went in until the final whistle, but the Fire only had a goal to show for what was a thoroughly dominant performance.
You may already be shaking your head while reading this, but there are teams who have gathered more points this season (or not) and don’t come anywhere close to the type of industry, creativity, and attacking prowess the Fire have displayed since going to the three-back system.
Are there things that need to be improved upon including finishing? Absolutely. But these results are not indicative of performance.
This group has gone 2-2-2 since switching to the three-back against Philly on June 26th. They’ve scored 13 goals in the last six matches, compared to four in the first nine matches. Those first nine matches featured a 1-7-1 record.
Álvaro Medrán and Gastón Giménez have gone back to baller status in the past week or so, in particular Giménez since coming back from Copa America. Medrán has been doing that for about two months now.
Things have without a doubt gotten better and, at the very least, more entertaining.
This is not terribly complicated. 4-4-2 diamond. Monteiro is good. Their fullbacks will get forward and provide service. Pinning them back with a good starting position and utilizing that ever-present buzz phrase, “defensive attacking” will be relevant.
The 2-v-3 setup at the bare minimum when it comes to our centerbacks and their strikers is a good look, but obviously the help of both wingbacks and midfielders will help in that endeavor.
It’s another road game against a tough opponent, but as a glass half-full kind of guy, I view it as another opportunity. It’s another chance to get that first road win, and another chance to have a jubilant plane ride home. A win on Sunday could perhaps spark a level of confidence that’s very much needed headed into the second half of the season, which will be predominantly spent away from Soldier Field.
It's our last nationally televised game of the year, so that means I have the weekend off. Tune in for kickoff Sunday at 5 p.m. CT on Twitter (English audio), Unimás and TUDN.