John Carollo III is the author of this piece. Exactly 49 minutes ago
The Chicago Fire return to Soldier Field after their first win of the season to face a different kind of test in CF Montreal. Both teams came into the season with a lot of doubts and a lot of expectations for troubles, but each week they have gone in very opposite directions. They’ll finally meet this week. Let’s see who’s going to be available.
Ignacio Aliseda is apparently ready to play for the first time since his brief debut in the season opener, but with a win last week, it’s unlikely that the starting lineup will change much. So Gaston Gimenez, who has been out with a hip ailment since last week, might not be back anytime soon. Przemyslaw Frankowski has been called up to the Polish National Team and will be unavailable on Tuesday because he will be playing for Poland versus Russia. Mason Toye, Ballou Tabla, and Zach Brault-Guillard are the notable players in the MLS Injury Report for CF Montreal.
In Saturday’s game, keep the following three points in mind:
The return of Djordje Mihailovic, who was traded earlier this year for up to $1 million in allocation money, is probably the greatest news heading into this game. Djordje was a homegrown athlete who was signed straight out of high school and handed a starting role on the squad nearly immediately. He was declared replaceable after a few years of inconsistency and playing out of position.
I don’t blame Djordje for being traded by the Chicago Fire. They were able to extract value from a non-paying asset. Djordje isn’t a horrible guy, either. In fact, I feel the trade was the greatest decision for Djordje, who has been given fresh surroundings and a coach who will play him exactly where he belongs at the 10 position. Djordje has had a fantastic season so far, scoring two goals and assisting on another, but he might have an even better night against the Fire, who are known for enabling former players to score in their first encounters.
The best form of defence is none at all.
A key takeaway from the Chicago Fire’s previous match against Inter Miami is that they were a far better team when they didn’t spend the entire game bringing everyone back to defend. The Fire have already proved this season that even with all 11 players inside the box, they cannot defend effectively. As a result, the most effective strategy for Chicago to protect their goal is to simply keep the ball out of their final third.
This is simple to say yet difficult to implement, but it should simply be the team’s mindset. Focus on scoring if bolstering the defence isn’t actually bolstering the defence. Miami didn’t want to press, which was fortunate for the Fire, but any club watching this season knows the Fire can’t handle a press. So all the Fire have to do now is press harder and maintain the ball in midfield.
One step forward, one step back
Another intriguing aspect heading into this game is how both teams are coming off vastly distinct game trajectories. CF Montreal began the season with extremely low expectations, but managed to beat Toronto FC 4-2 in their first match. The squad had done well under Djordje Mihailovic’s leadership up until the last few weeks, when they fell to Atlanta United and subsequently FC Cincinnati. It appears that their luck is running out, especially since their loss was Cincinnati’s first win of the season.
The Chicago Fire, on the other hand, began the season with high hopes of at least making the playoffs, only to be beaten down time and time again, including a four-game losing run in which they scored just one goal in the opening game. They have finally given themselves room to manoeuvre after a win against Inter Miami, and now they will want to go out and establish that they don’t need a fluke goal to win a game.
Two teams on opposing paths with plenty to prove. It’ll be interesting to watch how it turns out.