Atlanta United vs Chicago Fire: Match Preview

If you thought Atlanta United had a particularly bad April (and quite rightly so), well, look no further than Chicago Fire for more misery. The Five Stripes’ Week 11 opponents have had one astonishing goal (no less penalty) in their last five games, and have been knocked out of the US Open in an embarrassing fashion to the Omaha League in the USL, not winning since March 19. So Saturday’s Atlanta win seems like a formality, doesn’t it???

MLS: Atlanta United in Montreal

Eric Bolt USA Today Sports

The Five Stripes have been in steady decline since their 1-0 win over DC United. Maybe not so much in terms of performance (which wasn’t all that great at first), but certainly in results (which weren’t great at first). Since then, Atlanta has had three losses and a draw, racking up a total of three over the past month. The heavy dose of mid-level taken by the Eastern Conference means Atlanta is still in the final picture (barely) but seventh place and 1.22 points in the game isn’t good enough. And if things don’t start looking up soon, the Five Lines are in danger of sliding further east. Besides the tilt this weekend against Chicago, Atlanta has a slow improvement in the New England Revolution, two trips to Nashville, and a visit from Columbus Crew on its May calendar. These are some of the toughest tests yet for Gonzalo Pineda and Co, and the current signs aren’t entirely reassuring. But first on the list is a home match with the 13th-placed team in the East and what should Be a confidence booster before it gets really hard.

MLS: New York Red Bulls at Chicago Fire

Matt Marton USA Today Sports

Chicago are second with 10 points despite starting the season five unbeaten under head coach Ezra Hendrickson. The defensive toughness shown in those first few games as I scored four eliminations faded away, while the attack still showed no signs of life at all. Led by 17-year-old Gabriel Slonina (who has the third-highest blocking rate in the East) in goal, Chicago are still tough to break (especially in the first half where they haven’t conceded yet this season) and have the second-best defense in the league with 7 goals against. However, she conceded 3 and 2 goals respectively in the last twenty minutes of her last games, losing to Minnesota and Red Bulls. As for the final third, few teams showed as much aversion to putting the ball in the net as Chicago. The Fire has scored six goals all season, participated in four zero-draws, and last scored from open play six games ago. Big money signing Xherdan Shaqiri has only two goals (both penalty kicks) and doesn’t look quite as comfortable as the 10th goal in the Chicago system. Signed on the off-season from Philadelphia, Kacper Przybylko scored only two goals to his name and no one on the list has more than one assist. The impending arrival of wingers Jairo Torres and Chris Muller should help, but neither will be up and running this weekend. Nor will it be central defender Rafael Chicos, who was shown a red card against New York.

Expect to start XIs

11 Atlanta Predicted (4-2-3-1)

11 Chicago Predicted (4-2-3-1)

Prediction: Atlanta United 1-0 Chicago Fire

Anticipate acquisition. Lots of it.

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