The Fire arrived home on Saturday to follow up a disappointing road trip with a huge 4-1 victory in front of the first sold-out crowd that Toyota Park has seen since 2015. Even more impressive was the fact that the victory came against Clint Dempsey and his reigning MLS Cup Champions, the Seattle Sounders.
Of course, the Sounders haven’t played particularly well this season, but that fact isn’t going to keep Fire players or fans from riding the wave of momentum that a monstrous hometown victory inevitably brings.
Today the Fire will take that momentum and translate it onto the field, looking to extend their unbeaten streak at home as they take on a largely unimpressive Colorado Rapids.
Yet, as unimpressive as Tim Howard’s boys may be – the last place Western Conference team worst has just two wins and six losses – they should not be brushed off as predictable. Their three-goal shutout win over a “sound” Jose Earthquake team (everyone loves a good pun, right?) was certainly unexpected, and moreover was an evening that finally found midfielder Shkelshen Gashi back to goal-scoring form.
Still, the Fire shouldn’t be overly worried, especially considering that Nemanja Nikolic has the same number of goals by himself (eight) as the entire Colorado Rapids team this season. Moreover, as stated, the Fire haven’t lost a home game yet this season. The one factor that might play against Chicago this evening is the lineup.
Earlier in the season when the Fire were still struggling to find some traction, head coach Veljko Paunovic was forced to engage in some game-by-game tinkering to counteract the temporary loss of David Accam as well as adjust to the acquisition of Bastian Schweinsteiger.
The team apparently found its rhythm, claiming seven points for themselves during their three-game home stretch at Toyota Park. It wasn’t until their dismal road trip that immediately followed that Paunovic stepped in once again, giving Matt Lampson the nod at keeper and sticking Chicago homegrown player Drew Conner at outside back.
With this game against the Rapids coming with just three days of rest on the heels of their performance against Seattle – and even less before this Saturday’s match in D.C. – there are concerns that tired legs will call for further adjustments, especially with veterans like Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Nonetheless, a flailing Rapids team is just what the Fire need to carry their momentum into D.C. on Saturday, and more importantly further establish themselves as serious contenders for the MLS Cup.
Catch the Fire and the Rapids in action tonight on CSN-Chicago+ at 7:30 pm (CT), and follow along with the official Twitter of The Loop Sports.