After three tough weeks on the road, the Fire return to Bridgeview to host a similarly struggling Seattle Sounders, as both teams look to regain some lost momentum.
Chicago entered their three-game road trip with high hopes, having just come off of a three-game home stretch that wrangled in seven well-fought and convincing points for the club. However, the Men in Red seemed to crumble back to their grinding form of previous seasons in the away stretch that followed: they first fell to Toronto and then the N.Y. Red Bulls, and in the end settled with a tie against Los Angeles after blowing a two-goal lead in the first half.
Still, the Fire remain (albeit only just) above the red playoff line, and admittedly seemed to be the better team in their disappointing draw at L.A. The Fire were certainly more dangerous in the final third against the Galaxy, finishing with 12 shots total and six on target.
Compare that to L.A.’s 12 shots with only two on target. Unfortunately for the Fire, those two shots also accounted for the Galaxy’s only goals of the game (both of which were conceded as set pieces).
Yet, just as well, David Accam is beginning to look dangerous again, as he netted himself a goal alongside an assist last match before his substitution in the 60′ for Michael de Leeuw. If Accam continues to fuel the high tempo in the midfield alongside the more methodical play of veterans Dax McCarty and Bastian Schweinsteiger, the Fire certainly have a good shot at keeping their at-home unbeaten streak alive.
Of course, the task won’t be easy. Not only will Toyota Park host some of the MLS’s top names on Saturday – the likes of which include the USMNT’s Clint Dempsey, 22-year-old goal-scorer Jordan Morris, and nine-year MLS veteran Osvaldo Alonso – but the Fire will also have to quell a reigning-championship team that is eager to claw their way out of an underwhelming start to the 2017 season.
The Sounders are currently in ninth place in the Western Conference Standings, sitting two spots from the bottom with just eight points and one road win. Yet, it shouldn’t go unsaid that the Fire have come away victorious just once in all of their regular season match-ups ever against Seattle.
To put it plainly, both sides are hungry for a win. The Sounders are not used to such a poor display this early in the season, and they will no doubt see a struggling Chicago team as the springboard to put them back on track. On the other hand, with the addition of Bundesliga legend Bastian Schweinsteiger coinciding with an uncharacteristically hot start to the season, the Fire won’t be keen to let increasingly rare playoff-picture hopes slip away so easily.
The deciding factor could very well be Chicago’s Hungarian striker Nemanja Nikolic. In his first MLS season after transferring from Legia Warsaw in Poland, the 29-year-old has arguably taken over David Accam’s assumed role as the team’s goalscorer. Nikolic has five goals in his last five games, and his knack for the net could be the difference come Saturday evening.