|Matchup||Chicago Fire (12-9-5, 41 pts.) vs. Montreal Impact (10-9-6, 36 pts.)|
|Date||Saturday, Sept. 2 • 6 p.m. CT|
|Location||Montreal, Quebec • Stade Saputo|
|TV||CSN Chicago Plus (Pregame Show: 5:30 p.m.)|
|Spanish Radio||Univision América 1200 (WRTO)|
|Injuries, Suspensions, Lineup Projection||MLS Match Preview|
It's a quick return to Canada for the Chicago Fire this weekend, as they gear up to visit the Montreal Impact for a second time in 18 days on Saturday night (6 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago Plus). Last time out, Montreal rode a brace from winger Ignacio Piatti to a 3-0 win in front of their home fans back on Aug. 16. Now, entering the weekend replay, the stakes have raised as both sides continue to jockey for position in the race towards the 2017 MLS Playoffs. Ahead of Saturday night's contest in Canada, here are a few key facts, faces and figures to keep in mind:
Key number: 12
August was mostly a very kind month to the Impact, who picked up 12 of a possible 15 points and scored 12 goals in the process. They'd bagged three goals in three straight games leading up to last weekend's defeat to Eastern Conference leaders Toronto FC, and are dangerously close to overtaking Atlanta United FC currently sitting in the sixth and final playoff spot. Montreal are as confident a side as there is in MLS right now, as the Fire look to right their respective ship by picking up three points away from home and cool Montreal's momentum.
Matchup to watch: Juninho vs. Ignacio Piatti
With 15 goals to his name this season, Piatti earns eyes no matter where he's playing. The Fire witnessed that first-hand on Aug. 16 when these two teams last met, as Piatti scored twice in the first half in leading his side to a 3-0 win at home. With midfielder Dax McCarty away on U.S. Men's National Team duty, Juninho figures to slot into the midfield to help contain the Argentinian playmaker alongside the Fire backline. It's no advanced line of thinking, but limiting Piatti's influence on the game will be a big factor in this one's outcome.
This weekend's match falls during a FIFA international window, as 2018 World Cup Qualifying resumes across the globe. Chicago will be without the aforementioned McCarty, who is with the United States ahead of matches against Costa Rica on Friday (5:30 pm CT, ESPN, UniMás, UDN | Watch at Heineken Pub97!) and Honduras on Tuesday, Sept. 5 (4:30 pm CT, beIN Sports, NBC Universo). Meanwhile, the Impact will be without six players, including midfield talisman Blerim Dzemaili (Switzerland), central defender Laurent Ciman (Belgium), defender Shaun Francis (Jamaica), and Canadian trio Anthony Jackson-Hamel, Samuel Piette, and David Choiniere.
One Big Question: Could we see the return of Matt Polster?
Polster's absence due to a left knee injury the last three games is a notable one, as he'd been the team's highest usage starting XI regular outside of the Schweinsteiger-McCarty-Juninho midfield trio. Polster has been training regularly this week, and noted on Tuesday that he foresaw himself taking part in Saturday's match as long as everything went according to plan. Polster missed the Fire's 3-0 defeat on Aug. 18, meaning Saturday's contest could be his first match at Stade Saputo since this happened almost exactly a year ago.
Sizing Up The Series
The Chicago Fire hold a 4-6-5 all-time regular season record against the Montreal Impact, including a 1-5-2 record in matches played on the road. Most recently, the two sides have traded 3-0 results in the last two matches held at Stade Saputo, with Chicago claiming victory on Aug. 20, 2016 and Montreal besting the Fire on Aug. 16 of this season.
Quote of the Week:
"I will take responsibility on me, and I will help the team -- I hope -- with my goals to come out from this kind of situation."
That's Fire forward Nemanja Nikolic on his mindset approaching the Fire's current run of form. Nikolic's 16 goals this season remain firmly among the league's best hauls, but there's no doubt he's looking to break out of the drought that has set in as of late. He'll get another opportunity to do just that on Saturday night.