The Chicago Fire head on the road to face New York City FC at Yankee Stadium. The Fire are coming off a 4-1 victory over the Colorado Rapids in their last game while New York won their first game of the season against DC United.
Fire head coach Veljko Paunovic stressed the importance of getting into a winning streak and the Fire will look to carry that momentum from their last game over to a tough road game against an NYCFC team who are near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.
However, New York is a team on a mission as they will also look to build off their first win of the season and their head coach, Dome Torrent, knows that he is on the hot seat and in danger of losing his job if the team does not improve. He alluded as much in his post game press conference.
This is their first season without David Villa, who left to join Vissel Kobe of the J1 League. Losing a player of his caliber would hurt any team and despite being in the middle-of-the-pack offensively, their offense has been inconsistent. They will either score goals in bunches or they get shutout. They’ve lacked consistency.
The Fire also head into this game looking to win at New York for the first time since that franchise has existed.
Three things to watch out for
Rotations, Rotations, Rotations
The phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” certainly applies to the Fire and they’ve looked a lot better ever since they moved Bastian Schweinsteiger to center-back and used Jeremiah Gutjahr as their starting left-back. But with three games in the next ten days, Paunovic may tinker with his line-up in order to keep the team fresh.
Whether that means a player like Mo Adams will come back in for a Djordje Mihailovic remains to be seen. The back-line has looked a lot better ever since Schweinsteiger became a part of it and is perhaps an area of the pitch Paunovic would rather not mess with.
Status of Przemysław Frankowski
The Polish international has been sidelined the last three games with a groin injury. He has not played since the Fire’s win over the New York Red Bulls back at the end of March.
Against Toronto in their last road game, the Fire’s plan was to hit them on the break and, on that occasion, the plan worked. If they’re looking to replicate that game plan, having someone like Frankowski would be a huge boost.
If the Fire have depth anywhere on their roster, it’s up top. Players like Christian Martinez or Amando Moreno are viable options -especially the former- if Paunovic wants that pace or characteristics of Frankowski. Again, with the influx of games coming up, a switch up top may be likely.
Continued improvement by Nico Gaitán
The game against the Rapids was the best Nico Gaitán has looked since joining the Fire. He had two assists and was instrumental in winning the ball back for the Fire’s go-ahead goal. Slowly but surely, he seems more comfortable with his new team and it was only going to be a matter of time until he gelled with his teammates.
He is still not 100 percent but he’s getting there. In his post game conference he mentioned that he didn’t feel “dead” until the 85th minute of the game as opposed to the game against Vancouver, where he was running out of gas around the 65th minute mark.
If the Fire are looking to hit NYCFC on the break, look for Gaitán to drop a bit deep when the team get the ball in order to hit them quick and deliver that final pass. We know he’s not selfish and will look for his teammates should they be in on goal. His presence means that teams will now have to focus on him more which should give more space for players like Aleksandar Katai and CJ Sapong to take advantage of.
This should be an interesting match-up and one the Fire have all the chances of winning. The last time these two teams met was a 4-3 goal fest at SeatGeek Stadium with the Fire coming out on top.
This team has showed resilience on the road even in their season-opening loss against the Galaxy. A win against NYCFC would do wonders for their confidence and with their next games coming against Montreal and LAFC, their schedule doesn’t get any easier.