The Fire seek to start a new winning streak as they travel to Canada to take on the Montreal Impact. Chicago is coming off a dismal 1-0 midweek loss to New York City FC where they had no answers offensively, registering no shots on goal.
The NYCFC game was the “easiest” match in this three-game road streak. Now the Fire sit behind the eight ball as they face Montreal, who sit second in the Eastern Conference standings. Despite a negative goal difference, attributable to a 7-1 defeat at the hands of Sporting Kansas City, Montreal have only allowed two goals in their four wins and are coming off a 3-0 win against the New England Revolution.
As far as the Fire are concerned, the midweek loss did them no favors and the problems the team has had all season reared their ugly heads once again. The Fire need to start gelling as a team because time is running out on the “it’s still early” mentality and they need to start turning in complete performances if they want to make the playoffs.
Three keys to the game
Offense needs to get back on track
The Fire have only scored twelve goals this season and one-third of those came in their win against the Colorado Rapids. The offense doesn’t need to score four in a game to win but at times it seems like that’s the only way this team can win. Right now it looks like it’s feast or famine with the offense.
As an example, while the Fire have scored twelve goals, only two of those have come in the first half. What this does is put even more pressure on the team in the second half and we’ve seen Chicago too often head into halftime trailing. Getting off to a strong start sounds cliché at this point but it’s something the Fire have rarely done but need to do.
The return of Przemyslaw Frankowski
They received a huge boost midweek with the return of Frankowski, who had been out a while with a groin injury. It remains to be seen how fit he is but his return should have a domino effect on the team with the Polish international reclaiming the right side of the field, allowing CJ Sapong to go back on the left and Gaitan to play more centrally. Also, assuming Chicago will cede possession to Montreal, Frankowski’s pace will be a weapon should the Fire hit Montreal on the break.
A semblance of consistency
The Fire need to establish some form of consistency if they seek to go on any sort of winning streak. Will they be a team that takes initiative and looks to hold onto the ball or will they cede that possession and look to catch a team on the break? Their style up until now seems to depend whether they’re at home or on the road.
That’s not saying that they shouldn’t adjust or disregard the level of the opponent but, when things change on a game-by-game basis, it makes it difficult to get into a rhythm. This team is still very top-heavy with the majority of the quality up top.
In terms of the lineup, there is consistency there as head coach Veljko Paunovic has settled on his best starting eleven. With players slowly coming back from injuries, a clear playing style not only lets those players provide what is expected of them but can also aid the front office, potentially, in what players to bring in during the transfer window.
The loss midweek put the Fire outside the playoff places and with Montreal being a direct rival, this game takes on a bit more importance. The Fire have a dismal away record, not recording a victory in their previous 15 attempts. With Los Angeles FC coming up, the Montreal game is their best chance at breaking that run of bad form.