Now a third of the way through the 2017 MLS season the Chicago Fire take to the road after a brief home-stand that saw the Men in Red post back-to-back three point victories for the first time since May of 2003. Led by the current Golden Boot Leader, Nemanja Nikolic, the Fire earned a resounding 4-1 statement victory over the defending MLS Champions in front of an impressive crowd at Toyota Park, and then blanked Tim Howard and the Colorado Rapids 3-0 this past Wednesday.
The Fire are in the nation’s capital this weekend as they head to RFK Stadium to take on D.C. United this afternoon, their third match in the last seven days. The biggest question that the Fire will face this afternoon is whether or not they can keep the energy and tempo up in their third match of the week, this time on the road.
The Fire are unbeaten at home this season and have looked like a real contender in the Eastern Conference, their results in road matches tell a much different story thus far. The Fire are 0-3-2 on the road in 2017, outscored by opponents 5-12 in their five road matches.
The Fire are 8-15-5 all time in road matches against D.C. United, but will look to take advantage of the club’s struggling offensive attack. D.C. United has been shutout in six of their 10 matches in 2017, and are coming off a 4-0 defeat to the Philadelphia Union last week. The United will be without a slew of players this afternoon, missing the suspended Luciano Acosta (red card vs. Philadelphia) as well as five injured players.
The key to the Fire attack will of course be their leading scorer, Nemanja Nikolic, who has more goals (10) this season than the entire D.C. United team (9). Bastian Schweinsteiger’s has attracted a hefty amount of attention from opposing defenders, and that certainly is helping out the tear that Nikolic is on right now, scoring 10 goals in his first 11 games this season.
“He has that natural hunger for scoring goals,” Fire head coach Veljko Paunovic said when asked about Nikolic on Wednesday. “When I spoke with him before we brought him here, he said ‘you know, I’m not happy when we don’t win, I’m not happy when I don’t score, so you just have to know that I’m gonna always try to score goals, give my best.’”
It wasn’t until July 31 of last season that the Fire reached the 18 point mark, where they currently sit on May 20 of this season. However, if the Fire hope to make some noise in the Eastern Conference this season, they will certainly have to begin to win on the road.
This afternoon’s game will be broadcast on UniMas, as well as a Live Facebook Stream (U.S. Only) at 3:00 pm (CT).
Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Matt Lampson – Matt Polster, Jonathan Campbell, Johan Kappelhof, Michael Harrington – Juninho, Dax McCarty – Arturo Alvarez, Michael De Leeuw, David Accam – Nemanja Nikolic