Fire v Real Salt Lake match preview

What Are They All About? Real Salt Lake

This past weekend the Chicago Fire lost on the road against Toronto FC. The 3-0 scoreline accurately illustrated the match and the result has severely dented Chicago’s slim playoff hopes. Out-shot, out-possessed, out-passed, and outplayed, the Fire are in dire straits. A streak of five consecutive losses ties a club record achieved in their first MLS season and sets up the possibility of attaining yet another unwanted achievement under the stewardship of Veljko Paunovic and Nelson Rodriguez.

To further add insult to injury, reports from France indicate that Chicago transfer target Anime Bassi has turned down an offer from the Fire. The “number ten” that Rodriguez presumably alluded to in his media round table last week opted to stay with Ligue 2 side AS Nancy Lorraine (ASNL was relegated from Ligue 1 last season) rather than joining MLS, a decision that impacts Rodriguez’s narrative of the Fire as a club of choice. With the summer transfer window closing in just under a week, time is running out to secure the reinforcements required for Chicago to turn their fortunes around. However, the MLS schedule waits for no one and they’ll have to juggle their transfer possibilities with yet another three-match week. First on the docket, Real Salt Lake (9:00 CT on ESPN+).

Mike Petke and RSL will enter Saturday’s fixture on what can only be described as a head scratching dip in form but they will see this as an opportunity to right the ship. Two consecutive draws against two of the league’s worst teams, San Jose and Colorado, and a loss to playoff hopefuls Minnesota is a far cry from the side that beat SKC, Dallas, and New York earlier in the season. RSL is desperately trying to hold onto the sixth and final playoff spot in the West and three points is a must this weekend. The hosts will take solace in the fact that Chicago is playing in an Open Cup semi-final on Wednesday and will likely feature a weakened starting eleven. Will Petke and RSL overestimate a makeshift line up, or will Paunovic’s reserves seal Chicago’s playoff fate? Let’s see what’s in store for the Men in Red.

RSL Form Guide (all competitions): D-D-L-W-W

Previous Result: A 0-0 away draw with San Jose.

Formation: 4-3-3; Rimando; Herrera, Glad, Silva, Lennon; Beckerman, Sunny, Rusnak; Plata, Baird, Savarino

Strengths: In a conference where second place and tenth place are separated by just ten points, holding onto a playoff spot for months at a time is quite an achievement. RSL’s ability to stay in the mix throughout the season is not pure happenstance. Let’s see where they might succeed this weekend.

Printers, Bank Accounts, and Refs, Oh My: If one is to become a successful coach in any sport, having the trust and loyalty of your players is key. There is perhaps no better example of such success than Mike Petke. Two weeks ago, the RSL coach went on a tirade against VAR and MLS referees that went viral and earned him a $10,000 fine from the league. The gist of the post-match interview was that there is no transparency in MLS when it comes to referee decisions or clear-cut criteria for VAR reviews. The interview was given almost exactly a year after Petke’s rant against referee decisions in the wake of his ejection from a match against Sporting Kansas City.

While he may have a flair for the dramatic, such actions on the part of Petke show that he lives and breathes the sport and will go to the ends of the earth to protect his players and the integrity of whatever club he works for. RSL is a decent MLS squad on paper, but year after year they are among the lowest ranked club in terms of expenditures and Petke must be commended for their continued success despite this handicap.

Chicago Fire II: Supporters have long wanted to see Chicago invest in a USL side. While it might not be exactly what they had in mind, they are likely to see that vision partially come to fruition on Saturday. The Fire have once again seen their season come down to a midweek match played in August as they travel to Philadelphia to take on the Union in the US Open Cup semi-final. This is a hurdle that they have been unable to pass since they made the final against Seattle in 2011.

Having touted “making a final” as part of a “championship side”, Nelson Rodriguez has forced Paunovic and his charges into a position where winning the semi and earning the right to host the final is paramount to the success of their season. Onlookers shouldn’t be surprised if the Fire lineup features the likes of Bronico, Corrales, Conner, Dean, Johnson, Cleveland, Tchani, and Adams. As further evidence of rotation, Chicago’s midweek player interview featured Alan Gordon. RSL’s confidence has to be off the charts heading into this one.

Oooo, Mountains: While we certainly aren’t experts in topography, RSL’s home record over the years seems to indicate that there is something to the theory of altitude impacting visiting sides. They’ve lost just once at Rio Tinto this season and just five time in the last three years. As a comparison, the Fire have more losses at home in this season alone. Furthermore, Chicago has not won in Utah since 2011 (courtesy of a Marco Pappa hat trick). 

Weaknesses: Although we praised RSL’s ability to stay in the playoff mix above, a loss or a draw on Saturday would open up the door for them to be leapfrogged by Vancouver and Minnesota. Petke’s charisma can only carry a team so far and there are distinct shortcomings present in this side. Let’s see where RSL might struggle on Saturday.

What’s Movsisyan Up To?: As it stands, RSL is the only play-off position side that does not have a player with nine or more goals on it. Their leading goal scorer, Joao Plata, currently sits on six goals while Rusnak, Baird, and Silva have tallied five. Interestingly, they are in the top quarter of MLS sides in terms of shots, shots on goal, and chances created but have scored one or fewer goals on fourteen occasions this season. For whatever reason, they just can’t put goals away.

We’ve Won Before the Starting Whistle: As was alluded to above, there are a few results that this RSL side will want back when they reflect on their season. Aside from the recent run of form, losses to the likes of Philadelphia, Orlando, and Toronto cannot be confidence inspiring. It is as if they believe that “lower” opposition is not worth their effort. Chicago’s losing streak might just be snapped by underestimation on RSL’s part.

Prediction: If Chicago is truly serious about competing for trophies they will realize that the US Open Cup is their only chance at silverware this season. Veljko Paunovic will send a USL-esque side out to face RSL to give the Fire the best chances possible against Philadelphia on Wednesday. Real Salt Lake 4-1 Chicago Fire. Plata, Rusnak, Beckerman, and Savarino for the hosts, Alan Gordon for the visitors.

Filed under: 2018 regular season

Tags: Chicago Fire

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  • This is really getting ridiculous and someone needs to finally be held accountable. AH and NR are on track to preside over 3 last place finishes (in years where expansion teams have emerged) as well as VP over 2 of those.
    Pros
    Signing Nicolic
    Signing de Leeuw
    Signing Basti
    Signing Katai
    With these players, we should be decent right?
    Cons
    Replacing both caretaker type goalkeepers, with one acceptable replacement. McClain looked promising, he gets injured and nothing is done except using 2 college level keepers who do not belong in MLS.
    Still no true CAM. A team can not play possessive soccer without a CAM. If you cant possess and resort to counter attacks and long ball, you will be eventually exposed and defended against accordingly, and lose games. de Leeuw could have filled that role, gets injured, now what? Again,no one to replace him
    Signing Basti. They emptied the safe to sign a player who is a natural CDM, when we already had Dax , Pollster, and now Adams who can play that role. Yes Basti is amazing, he can fill in anywhere, but that wasn't the position we needed for a big name signing.
    Catering to the micros instead of the masses with taking games off of local and pay TV, with a crap product to boot
    As for the stadium location argument, did you see what happened Thursday? The USWNT sold it out, so that argument is BS. Soccer fans will come to watch good (and winning) soccer. If the Fire were even mediocre I would go to Soldier Field, Naperville, Bridgeview, where ever. Lincoln Yards will be inconvenient for me, but if the soccer is good I am going.
    They are not going to win the Open Cup,this is a trainwreck on top of a trainwreck.

  • Apparently, you missed the bus. All the real soccer fans have moved on and found REAL soccer teams to follow. I only watch the Fire games for chuckles and to remind myself how much better my real team is.

  • I realize it's easy to be frustrated with NR & VP at this stage of the season but for me the problem is Hauptman. He's now owned the Fire since 2007 as has done nothing to fundamentally make them a consistently better team. Yallop promised him he could field a competitive team on a shoestring budget and was proven wrong. Now NR is scouring the word for bargains and unable to pull them off with the result that the Fire are probably looking at the schedule for the remainder of the year and wondering if there is another game they can win. NR stated at the draft this spring they had an incomplete roster and he was right. Adding Hasler, Edwards and del Grecco doesn't constitute completing a roster for me.

  • In reply to Marlin:

    This has been my argument for changes for awhile. The one variable that hasn't changed in all this time of whatevering is Hauptman. I'm not saying the next owner will be any better, but we've tried new players, new coaching staffs, new front office personnel, but not a new owner. Draw the conclusion.

    It's so disappointing to have something I really enjoy so much to be so disastrously managed. I haven't divorced myself from the Club, but I still think we need some time apart for them to get themselves straight, so to speak.

    sigh

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