No matter the sport, the good teams manage to still win when they're not at their best. The Fire did just that in a 2-0 win at home against an Atlanta United side that routed them 4-0 back in March. Chicago wasn't quite hitting on all cylinders and wasted several good chances but did just enough to pick up their eighth win of the season. The victory pulls them to within a point of Toronto FC for the top of the table after matches.
"We obviously planned a couple of scenarios for this game, the one that prevailed was the one for the counter attack," said Veljko Paunovic following the game. "We kind of had issues laying with four in the back so we adjusted very well, with Basti dropping in the backline and helping the team so our fullbacks can go wider and close those gaps we had on our flanks."
Atlanta seemed to have the better of the play in the first half but Chicago led 1-0 at the half. They added another late in the game and probably could had a few more if not for some near misses and bad touches. Playing for the counter without Dax McCarty pushed the possession stats in the visitors favor by a good margin (61-39) but the Fire still managed to create more good looks at goal than the competition.
Atlanta wasn't at full strength with Miguel Almiron on limited minutes after international duty and Josef Martinez just back from injury but neither were the Fire with McCarty still away. They'll likely challenge for a playoff spot as the season advances. Chicago seems to be on their way.
GK Matt Lampson (5.5) - A fourth clean sheet in the last five games. Credited with two saves with a 34th minute stop being the more difficult of the two, although Atlanta did have a few near misses early that were just wide of goal. Decent command in the box but had enough issues with goal kicks that Schweinsteiger actually took one for him in the 49th.
D Brandon Vincent (6) - Continues his improvement in his second season with another solid game. Service has been consistently good with only a few errant passes.
D Johan Kappelhof (6) - The Fire allowed 12 shots on goal but only two were on frame. After a few looks early on the Fire adjusted on denied anything substantial. Very good in the last 40 minutes.
D Joao Meira (6) - As the Fire look for more depth and challenge at center back in the upcoming window, Meira continues solid play. Villalba was dangerous early but Chicago's team defense settled in. More big numbers with 10 recoveries and 8 clearances. Headed attempt led to the handball and PK.
D Matt Polster (6) - Not quite as effective as he was in his first few games at right back but still helped nonetheless. A little bit of an issue with player getting behind in the first half but that was addressed tactically. Almost scored in the 68th with a good run but Kann saved his shot in the well in the 68th.
M Bastian Schweinsteiger (6.5) - As Paunovic mentioned, he was dropped deeper as sort of a third center back in order to plug the gaps that Atlanta was penetrating early on. It worked. Schweinsteiger continues to deliver on both ends. He started the sequence that led to the first goal by finding Accam in the 30th and his presence in front of the back line was definitely felt. The Fire are 7-2-3 with Schweinsteiger in the lineup this year.
M Juninho (5.5) - Playing in McCarty's role, the Fire weren't as effective with Juninho filling this spot but they also had issues last week in Orlando without McCarty. Juninho wasn't dominant or flashy as the Fire tried to play the counter but did get the ball forward to start Accam on a couple of wasted chances.
M David Accam (5.5) - Helped create the first goal by dancing by defenders to find Solignac open but there were at least five other opportunities that were either mishandled with a bad touch, bad pass, or questionable decision. Just missed Nikolic open in the front of the net in the 57th when a pass an instant earlier might have resulted in a score. Accam will continue to create chances because of his pace but he wasn't exactly clinical in this match.
M Michael de Leeuw (6.5) - Somehow hasn't scored yet this season but continues to play an important role in the success of this team over the last two months. Tireless on both sides of the ball, his work will be rewarded eventually as teams prepare to focus on more on Nikolic and Accam. Credited with 5 recoveries and 2 clearances while playing in the "attacking" midfield role.
M Luis Solignac (5.5) - Finished his clear look in the 30th after receiving a pass in front of goal from Accam. Wasn't involved much other than the goal with only 8 touches in 59 minutes but credit for taking the chance well when it was presented to him.
F Nemanja Nikolic (5.5) - With the Fire giving up possession to play on the counter Nikolic didn't get many touches or looks on goal. Involved in the play with de Leeuw and Polster to set up a great chance in the 68th and converted the spot kick in the 70th to give the Fire a two goal advantage.
D Drew Conner (5.5) - Replaced Solignac in the 59th. Allowed Polster to move up from right back with the Fire looking to close out the final thirty minutes.
D Jonathan Campbell (6) - Replaced Juninho in the 65th in answer for the substitution entries of Almiron and Martinez. 3 clearances, 2 recoveries, and an interception as the Fire tried to hold on.
M Arturo Alvarez (5.5) - Subbed in for Accam in the 86th. Created a chance for Nikolic with a pass in the 89th.