Fire v Impact match preview

Qui sont-ils? Aperçu du Match Contre Montreal

The mixed bag keeps on giving. Just two days after a shocking 4-0 thrashing at the hands of expansion side Atlanta United, the Chicago Fire announced the long-rumored signing of Bastian Schweinsteiger. Despite making several key signings in the offseason there was still something missing for the Chicago side, and Nelson Rodriguez seems to have addressed that now. The need for a figure who is an experienced leader with playmaking capabilities showed in the Atlanta match and Chicago will hope to turn a new leaf this upcoming Saturday as they welcome the Montreal Impact to Toyota Park at 2 PM CT (aired on CSN).

Schweinsteiger could be ready to start against the Impact after claiming that his health and fitness is “over 100%” during his unveiling on Wednesday. Paunovic would not confirm or deny Schweinsteiger’s involvement or participation level but the German trained with the squad on Wednesday and will continue to do so for the remainder of the week. In the way of a successful debut stands a Montreal side with a lot to prove. They don’t have their backs against the wall just yet, but two points from three matches is certainly not what Mauro Biello would have been hoping for. Chicago faced this Montreal side to kick off their second phase of preseason and defeated a largely reserve and trialist side 4-1 in the Florida sun. Will Chicago replicate that performance amidst windy gales or will Montreal rain gravy on Bastian’s welcome parade? Let’s see what’s in store pour les Hommes en Rouges.

Montreal Form Guide: L-D-D

Previous Result: A 1-1 draw away to NYCFC.

Formation: 4-2-3-1; Bush; Duvall, Cabrera, Ciman, Oyongo; Mallace, Bernardello; Piatti, Bernier, Oduro; Mancosu

Forces: It’s been just over a month since we last wrote about this Montreal side so if you’d like to revisit our initial take we welcome you to do that. In terms of strengths we discussed their new signings, the continued success of Piatti, and the departure of Drogba as a positive change in the locker room. Now that we’ve seen the Impact play a bit, let’s take a look at where they have succeeded.

Fighting Spirit on the Road: While it may be indicative that we are beginning our strengths section by discussing spirit, this seems to be a standout feature of this Biello side. In both of their away matches thus far–the 1-0 in San Jose and the 1-1 draw at NYCFC–Montreal went into half time a goal down and Biello’s talks revolved around forgetting the last play, living in the moment, looking for options, and visualizing the inevitable goal. Well, on both occasions  the players came out in the second half fully believing it. This was reflected in better possession stats, higher pass completion rates, and more chance creation after the break (not to mention they did so down a man in San Jose). We’ve said it repeatedly over the last few years, these players would run through a wall for Biello and his staff. The leadership exhibited by players like Ciman, Piatti, Donadel, and Bernier is irreplaceable and contagious.

Efficiency on the Wing: Tactical versatility has also been a talking point with this Biello side. His affinity for the white board is well known and that could be more responsible for the close results than fighting spirit is. Particularly unique to his approach is his ability to overload opposition on the wings. While many MLS sides have either a “devil may care” attitude or a talent deficiency on the wide side of their backlines, Oyongo and Duvall offer something different. Going forward, they have a knack for knowing when to press behind or make overlapping runs for Piatti and Oduro respectively, but are also comfortable on the ball themselves (sporting a 72% pass completion rate between the two of them, and four dribble attempts per match) At the same time, their defensive capability shines through as well. The wingback duo has averaged 26 successful defensive interventions per match (won tackles, interceptions, clearances, and recoveries) while conceding just six fouls all season. All of this of course gives the wingers peace of mind as they streak forward.

I’ll Be There: There are several types of lone strikers that can play in the 4-2-3-1 and 4-5-1 systems that Biello utilizes. There are those terriers that will run all day and chase down every ball played into the attacking third, there are those that like to frequently get on the ball and build up alongside the midfield, and then there are those that make the right runs with seemingly little effort and put the ball into the net. Matteo Mancosou is the latter. He’s attempted just 35 total passes in three starts this season but at the end of the day it isn’t his job to be a distributor. Although he only has one goal this season, that return from three shot attempts is not a bad haul. We think his positioning, smart runs, and ability to lose defenders with his seemingly apathetic approach will eventually lead to more frequent appearances on the score sheet. With Kappelhof suspended for the encounter, a lack of understanding between Meira and Campbell could be the perfect scenario for the Italian.

Nous Devons Gagner: With just three matches played this season, it certainly isn’t time to panic but Saturday is about as close to a must win as possible this early on. The Impact have an away match against LA coming up after Saturday’s encounter and then they welcome an impressive Atlanta side the week after. Should they fail to obtain three points against Chicago, they certainly won’t do so with their road form away against a formidable Western Conference opponent. Realistically, they could be facing an expansion side on match day six with just two points and at the bottom of the table. On the surface coaches may say “take it one match at a time” but the Impact will be playing with added pressure this weekend. They’ll be hoping it fuels a positive performance.

Faiblesses: If those strengths above seemed slightly lacking in their typical gusto and aren’t reflective of what you expected of this Montreal side, there are very good reasons for that. This slow start to the season seems reflective of some of the weaknesses we highlighted in our preseason preview–a sense of complacency among the starters and an aging squad–but bad luck and poor timing have added to their woes. Let’s look at where the Impact will struggle.

Placé par des Blessures: You may have noticed that there was no specific mention of Ciman, Bernier, or Piatti outside of their general leadership. We weren’t going to waste space discussing individuals that won’t feature in the encounter. Bernier and Ciman are highly questionable as Saturday approaches with Biello commenting that he isn’t hopeful on their situations. Andres Romero is also questionable with a continuing hamstring injury. Piatti on the other hand will definitely be missing as he is suffering from a groin strain that will sideline him for several weeks.

With Piatti and Romero out Montreal is very thin on creativity. This mostly aging side has not really brought up any youngsters capable of shouldering the responsibility of being a midfield engine. In fact, we wouldn’t label any of the remaining midfielders as attacking outlets and they certainly don’t have anyone that can replicate the 17 goals and 6 assists that the Argentine notched last season. Adrian Arregui may finally receive his first start of the season but the typically box to box midfielder isn’t the answer. Biello will be left to contemplate not only a lineup change but will most likely have to tinker with the formation as well. This much uncertainty and the fact that the three absentees make up the spine of his team might mean that Chicago has an easy task ahead of them.

Stranger Things: In addition to an injury plague, Montreal will have to deal with the ramifications of the Cameroonian FA’s stupidity. The previously touted contributions of Oyongo may not be applicable on Saturday because Cameroon forgot to purchase a return ticket from Brussels for the youngster after their midweek friendly. Although the situation could be rectified on Thursday or Friday, fatigue and jet lag could come into play. Furthermore, the youngster went on a fairly emotional tirade to Orange Sports about the lack of reciprocal love shown by his federation, adding to an already tense scenario.

I’m Going Out for a Cigarette and Poutine: While seemingly counterintuitive to the statements made about spirit above, there are times when Montreal has mentally checked out during important moments of matches. This was especially the case in their home match against Seattle. Montreal was strolling into the final ten minutes of the match with a 2-0 lead and they ended up drawing the match. A mind-boggling error by Ciman led to a penalty as the veteran took Oneil Fisher out in the box before Lodeiro slotted home from the spot for the first. The second came in the dying moments of the match as the entire Montreal backline took a play off to see a Cristian Roldan cross come into the box unopposed at both ends. Jordan Morris headed the cross down and Will Bruin smashed home from four yards out. This issue was a theme last season as late game losses and equalizers made appearances throughout Montreal’s campaign, none more heart breaking than their Eastern Conference Final loss to Toronto. These momentary lapses late in matches coupled with their aging squad is certainly worrisome.

Prediction: The hullabaloo around Bastian sets the stage and the missing pieces for Montreal are just too much to overcome. Chicago 3-1 Montreal. Nikolic, DeLeeuw, and Schweinsteiger with goals for the Fire, Oduro with a consolation goal for the Impact. Chicago’s up and down season continues with a vital three points to start off a home stint.

Filed under: 2017 Regular Season

Tags: Chicago Fire

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  • Poutine and a cigarette - that's what Quebecers have for breakfast, right?
    And heck, if Schweini is ready to play put him in the starting XI and let him knock himself out out there. Plausible to see him come in at 60' or so, but with I anticipate a good crowd on a beautiful day for soccer, why not start? WE'RE GOING TO THE WORLD CUP EVERYBODY!!!

  • My piece on Bastian Schweinsteiger's arrival and his place in Fire history compared to other big signings.
    https://theathletic.com/48706/2017/03/31/bastian-schweinsteigers-arrival-creating-needed-buzz-for-fire/

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Nice! Don't forget about us little blog people

  • In reply to Shinny:

    ...when you become rich and famous (sorry, I didn't finish my thought)

  • In reply to Shinny:

    to quote a Fire legend, "I'm still right here."

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Well written article Guillermo. I enjoyed the read.

    just a friendly edit... as much as Nanny is probably accurate for describing NR, i doubt you meant to call him a "nan"ager. Also whoever did the picture captions thinks Accam changed his last name to Occam....

  • In reply to edubs:

    Thanks. I see a couple of edits needed. :)

  • Tomorrow's game should be fun. I know Basti may not be 100% fit yet, but I do hope he starts just for the atmosphere's sake.

    This is completely anecdotal, but I think it will be a packed house. I was trying to get a few more tickets for some friends and actually had trouble finding seats together.

  • In reply to Shinny:

    I know there's been at least one instance since, but the last really packed game I recall (that had good atmosphere too) was when Kaka first visited to Chicago back in 2015 (and Adialton cemented himself in history books.)

  • Weekend picks

    Toronto over Sporting KC
    Seattle over Atlanta
    New York City over San Jose
    Chicago over Montreal
    Columbus over Orlando City
    D.C. and Philadelphia draw
    Minnesota and Real Salt Lake draw
    Houston over New York RB
    Vancouver and Los Ángeles draw
    Portland over New England

    Record: 18-17

  • OMG! As bad as Bava was on the one real save he needed to make Harrington was consistently horrible. Besides the two instances where he defended very well (which I don't know, maybe we should expect from a professional soccer player) he was more often beaten like a drum. Is there a left wing in MLS that isn't drooling at the thought of going against Harrington?

    Second, the offense was horrible with Alvarez and Nicolic. Yes Schweini was only with the team for two games but the other ten guys looked like they hardly knew each other.

    Tough to watch.

  • Bava may be the worst goalkeeper in the league. He looks hopeless and hapless. There must be better goalkeepers in USL if not on the bench in MLS. Surely this is now obvious even to Pauno.

  • The first goal from Montreal was maybe hard to react to but that second goal needed to be saved. Good recovery from Solignac bc that game would of been all on Bava. This game reminded me of the last home game of the season last year against the Revs where Solignac got a red but a few moments later, the Revs keeper also got a red. I sort of felt that Montreal red card were going to get a red. Still wished that the Fire won for Bastians debut. We still have 2 upcoming home games and we need to get full advantage of it. Would u start Lampson over Bava now? I laughed when Bava kicked a goal kick and it went to the sidelines. Waste of an international slot.

  • In reply to Firefan5819:

    Was*

  • In reply to Firefan5819:

    Yeah, Bava owes Solignac a case of Quilmes for saving his ass. You could barely slide a credit card through the slot those goals got in - how did he NOT stop those?! The first place Crew is coming in and we gotta step it up now. We've got the same point total as the '16 team after 4 games, but I'm hopeful we'll get ahead of the curve.

  • GR, is there a way to get NR thoughts about Harrington's performances/failures and actually get an honest answer? Would Doody be an upgrade at this point? It isn't as though the service from Harrington is so significantly and consistently good that his defensive errors are forgivable. That was a wounded team that came into Chicago and the Fire (in no small way through Harrington and Bava's poor play) gifted them a point.

    Second thought/question: NR specifically said that he will be judged by the product on the field and the first five games of this year are key. Does that make the Columbus game a "must win?" Or can he make an argument that a 1-2-2 or 1-3-1 record to start the year is significant evidence of the success of "the process?" In light of an expansion team like Atlanta playing high quality and successful soccer it's difficult to imagine the Columbus game not qualifying as a must win.

    Third, is there any word on DeLeeuw's injury? it looked like a broken wrist.

    Finally, Johnson was a breath of fresh air. Yes, he came in when Montreal's best defender was gone and the rest of them were tired. But his touch as well as the dynamic runs he made and the timing of the runs were wonderful to watch. Based on the lack of inspiration from Alvarez and an injured DeLeeuw will we see Johnson getting more minutes?

  • In reply to jlatwell:

    I like that Pauno has been giving minutes to the younger players. Granted, the ability is there to justify it, but I'm glad it's happening. (I know Yallop did this too, in his own way, but it's a bit reassuring to see Pauno doing this.)

    The Doody Question: can he play right back?

  • In reply to BrianC.:

    Who do we have to lynch to get a quality right back that we can feel confident in?

  • In reply to BrianC.:

    idk ... I'm left grasping at straws. Anyone has to be better than Harrington. I'd take a well trained Australian Shepherd over him. Maybe they are hoping Polster can fill the spot when he is healthy.

    Lampson was on the bench for the Fire. Hopefully he starts over Bava ... I can't believe I'm saying that.

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