|Matchup||Chicago Fire (10-3-4, 34 pts.) vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (6-6-3, 21 pts.)|
|Date||Saturday, July 1 • 6:00 p.m. CT|
|Location||Bridgeview, Ill. • Toyota Park|
|TV||CSN Chicago Plus|
|Spanish Radio||Univision América 1200 (WRTO)|
|MLS Match Preview||Projected lineups, injuries, and more|
After a mid-week penalty kick shootout exit from the 2017 U.S. Open Cup competition on Wednesday, the Chicago Fire return home on Saturday with an opportunity to extend their winning streak at home to eight straight matches against the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps (6 pm CT, CSN Chicago Plus | TICKETS). The Whitecaps enter the weekend hovering just below the Western Conference playoff line with 21 points, following a 2-2 draw at Minnesota last weekend. Ahead of this weekend's interconference clash, here are a few key facts, faces and figures to keep in mind:
Key number: 42.45
One of the most notable changes to Fire head coach Veljko Paunovic's side from last season into 2017 has been both its willingness and ability to control possession of the ball. Their ability to knock the ball around their own half to draw opponents out of their defensive shell has been a big part of their success in recent months, and it looks like that will have to be part of the gameplan again this weekend. Entering Saturday, Vancouver have had possession just 42.45% of the time in 2017, the league's lowest total. Look for the Fire to control this one, and attempt to limit Vancouver's Fredy Montero and Cristian Techera abilities on the counter.
Matchup to watch: Brandon Vincent vs. Cristian Techera
Techera has been the danger man for Vancouver in recent weeks, bagging a goal and an assist in last weekend's 2-2 draw against Minnesota United. Techera makes a living getting high and getting balls into the box from the right side of the midfield, but his 12 defensive actions (tackles, blocks, clearances, interceptions) last weekend against Minnesota also illustrate a willingness to track back and defend. How he and second-year defender Brandon Vincent -- who has played every minute so far in 2017 and whose defensive numbers and assist rate have improved across the board -- fare against one another along that touchline will be a factor in this one's outcome.
One Big Question: How will fatigue factor into the starting lineup?
Paunovic went with a strong starting lineup against FC Cincinnati in the Open Cup on Wednesday, choosing to deploy many of the same players who had featured in the club's 4-0 win over Orlando City on the weekend. Now -- 120 minutes later and in the absence of international call-ups Dax McCarty (USA) and David Accam (Ghana) -- Paunovic faces the task of striking a balance between deploying weary legs and injecting some of the roster's younger contingent to face Vancouver.
For their part, the Whitecaps have not played since last Saturday but are enduring their second straight long-distance trip to the Midwest, with their visit to Chicago coming on the heels of last week's excursion to Minnesota. The Caps also are without several international standouts, namely Canadian call-ups Alphonso Davies, Marcel de Jong and Russell Teibert.
Quote of the Week:
"Now, we have to understand the importance of that one play, the one play that can change the game."
Despite controlling an overwhelming amount of possession (70.2% - 29.8%) against FC Cincinnati in the Open Cup on Wednesday night, Paunovic's men were unable to find a goal over 120 minutes of play. While their comfort on and with the ball this season has been established, the next step in this team's evolution to find those game-breaking moments on a more consistent basis when the situation calls for them.
Fire Field Vision powered by NovaCare:
From the media guide:
- The Fire are 1-4-2 all-time in regular season play against the Whitecaps, including a 1-1-2 record in matches played at home.
- The Fire are currently 8-0-1 at home this season and currently unbeaten in their last 10 games across all competitions.
- Against Western Conference opposition this season, the Fire hold a 4-0-1 record, with all four wins coming at home.
- Whitecaps 'keeper Paolo Tornaghi began his MLS career as a member of the Fire, appearing in nine matches from 2012-13.