The Colorado Rapids are good now, Ilsinho is the MVP, a team with a negative seven goal differential is in third place in the East, an expansion team has 3 wins ... It all means that MLS is turning from a league that seemed like it was going to turn a page and keep going in a good direction to one where a Duke graduate is banging goals for NYRB like it’s 2007. We talked about it last week, but there’s loads of soccer going on and the league crowding the schedule this year is stretching the already weak depth mosts squads have. Only a matter of time until Andrew Shue comes out of retirement for the Galaxy.
That was on full display as Atlanta United beat the Société de transport de Montréal last weekend. The team played the exact same tactics against Atlanta that they did the first time Remi Garde led the team south and.... it had the exact same result. If the league wants to have good soccer and more of it, this is a game where Montreal showed why having better players on the roster is a good thing. With Omar Browne, Samuel Piette, Nacho Piatti, Zachary Brault-Guillard, Maxi Urruti, Clement Bayiha, and Daniel Lovitz missing, the team really had no choice. In short, it worked a little, but then it didn’t. Without those marginally good players and rather than losing to Josef, Montreal made Justin Meram look like Eden Hazard. Still the defensive foibles that emerged in Toronto were evident again as a 1st choice backline let Zakarai Diallo get the better of them on a play that resembled a tire fire for the backline. Still, Atlanta ended up with three points and will have to grind out another result in Chicago until Josef and Ezequel Barco are ready to play again.
More like the Chicago Ice Cubes
The last time we saw the Fire it seemed like the team was maybe getting ready to stop being the most embarrassing team to have ever been the best expansion team in the storied history of MLS. Then they lost to Atlanta and St. Louis FC, drew to Real Salt Lake and lost to NYRB. They have two wins in their last 10 games and are basically eliminating themselves from the playoffs.
In the loss to New York they gave up a goal on a howler in the 8th minute and then let Brian White pad his resume for a January camp call up. It was basically over before it began for Chicago but they gave themselves false hope when Nemanja Nikolic scored late, only for NYRB to tack on a third goal. Chicago may have been missing their most respected player as Francisco Calvo was busy getting eliminated from the Gold Cup, but the Fire have no direction and their tactics are all over the place. Rather than do something they do everything and none of it works.
As far as how they’ll play against Atlanta, it’ll be interesting. I’m going to put myself in Veljko Paunovic’s shoes and say that the Fire have probably spent all week looking at Atlanta, realizing they don’t like to be pressed, seen the gaps in the backline on set pieces and crosses and will naturally not press, play short corners, and try to walk the ball into the goal. It should be a delight.
Points, however they get here, keep them coming
Atlanta United has a tough task on their hands - they have to hold on for at least one more game until the designated players who play like designated players can start again and even then the team is going to be stretched by the schedule. At least Emerson Hyndman joined the team so the depth is getting more useful after the Five Stripes shipped off some players that weren’t going to be seeing the first team anytime soon.
It’s somewhat difficult to draw any conclusions about the last two games that can be brought to this one. The game in Toronto wasn’t the team’s best and they have played better but missing several key pieces and the bonkers ending of the match say more about the game than what happened tactically. Montreal turned the last match into a glorified attacking drill so at least we know that Atlanta can get through a bunker and that Justin Meram is paying off as a signing.
With the Fire being so tactically combustible, this will be a game where Atlanta will need to trust its game planning. If the team is able to pull of some of the things it did before the break and be defensively cohesive and effective though not extremely eager in possession, it should play into the teams hands. That’s a long way of saying that if the Five Stripes play better than the Fire they will win - nothing is working for Chicago so that shouldn’t be too difficult and grabbing a point or win should be a reasonable expectation.
PSA about fireworks
If you’ve been shooting off fireworks since last Friday as is apparently the custom here in Central Pennsylvania you are terrorizing the very good dogs of America.
More dogs run away this week than any other week of the year. Almost half of all dogs are afraid of fireworks. A veterinarian tells me what you can do to relieve some of that anxiety. #kwch— Kristen Boxman (@KWCHKristen) July 2, 2019
I had so much Barrington slobber on my hand, I dropped the firework. ♀️ pic.twitter.com/COF0ArlEyq
Still want to shoot off fireworks? Well have you ever considered how dangerous it is to tie a bottle-rocket to your friend’s head and then light that sucker up to send it on a zipline to their eyeball?
Oddly, that video serves as a good recap of the Chicago Fire season so far.
At least Atlanta doesn’t have to play Curacao
This is the last of three games until the schedule gets harder as the Five Stripes continue the stretch of nine games in a little over four weeks. The team has eight wins in the last 10 games, but the next eight will be against playoff teams, though five will be at home. Throw in the Open Cup and the second front marches on as well. Every point will be crucial in this stretch and going for a win and perhaps even taking risks against a shaky Chicago Fire team is a good opportunity to build another win streak.