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Atlanta United vs Chicago Fire: Match Preview

Back to the Benz at last

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Chicago Fire Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta’s road trip of nightmares is over, and this time the Five Stripes survived relatively unscathed - minus Brad Guzan, Giorgos Giakoumakis, and Thiago Almada at the hands of the injury bug of course, but at least they didn’t lose 6-1! Instead, Gonzalo Pineda’s side picked up a pair of very credible draws against NYCFC and Toronto, and if not for a pair of late equalizers, 6 points out of 6 weren’t all that far from being a reality. Atlanta can now return to the comfortable confines of Mercedes-Benz Stadium with a rare Sunday afternoon clash with the Chicago Fire, launching the first three-game week of the season.

MLS: Philadelphia Union at Chicago Fire Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

The Fire has gotten off to a smooth start in 2023, and surprisingly so compared to quite a few preseason expectations. Ezra Hendrickson’s side is 8th with 10 points, fifth in expected points, and one of five teams in the East to have only one loss this season. Despite keeping the large majority of its 2022 roster that finished 12th intact, Chicago looks to have taken some big steps forward with the new season. Its attack is the 4th best in the East with 11 tallies, headlined by MLS journeyman and goalscoring machine Kei Kamara, who leads the charts with 3 goals after a winter arrival from Montreal. Other than the Sierra Leone international, it’s a very goals-by-committee approach from Chicago, with winger Chris Mueller the only other player to have multiple goals so far. Nineteen-year-old attacker Brian Gutierrez (2 assists) has admirably filled in for the injured Xherdan Shaqiri, although the latter did make the bench last week. The American is one of the Fire’s main chance creators alongside right-back Arnaud Souquet, who has a pin-point cross in his arsenal.

While Chicago has found a fluidness in attack, its defense remains leaky with 10 conceded, the 6th most in the East. That weakness was on display last weekend in a 2-2 draw with the Philadelphia Union, a game Chicago was leading 2-0 with half an hour left. Atlanta’s attack could thrive, but the injury question marks surrounding Thiago Almada and Giorgos Giakoumakis cast a bit of a shadow over our chances of seeing a goal-fest Sunday.

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Toronto FC Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta’s pair of road draws means it stays 3rd with 15 points, two short of first place New England and one ahead of Columbus in fourth. In other words, so far so good. The upcoming schedule looks ripe for a winning streak as well, with only two teams above the playoff line on the calendar in the next six games. Gonzalo Pineda will have a bit of a selection headache, however, with the injuries to Almada, Giakoumakis, and Guzan combined with the first-midweek match of the season this upcoming Wednesday against Memphis 901 in the US Open Cup Third Round.

Previous Results

Atlanta leads the all-time series against Chicago 6W-1D-5L, including a win and a draw for the good guys last season.

Predicted Starting XIs

Atlanta’s Predicted XI (4-2-3-1)
Chicago’s Predicted XI (4-2-3-1)

Prediction: Atlanta United 2-1 Chicago Fire

The possible absences of Almada and Giakoumakis will make their presence felt in a closer game than expected. Nonetheless, Atlanta will get the job done and claim all three points thanks to a Luiz Araujo strike and a red-hot Machop Chol’s game winner.