Chicago Fire hoping for a huge upset against LAFC

The Chicago Fire seek their third victory of the season against Western Conference leaders LAFC. (Benjamin Ordaz/Hoy)

By Ernesto Hernandez

 

The Chicago Fire go into their game against Los Angeles FC as massive underdogs and losers of two straight shutout losses. In LAFC, the Fire face the Western Conference leaders, Supporters’ Shield leaders, and the league’s best player in Carlos Vela. A tough task ahead of them to say the least.

As mentioned, the Fire are coming off shutout losses against NYC FC and the Montreal Impact. In the former, the team failed to register any shots on target and while they looked better against Montreal, they failed to take advantage of the few opportunities they created.

The pressure is mounting for the Fire as they currently sit outside the playoff spots and still looking for a run of sustained success. Facing LAFC definitely isn’t what the team needs at the moment.

What to watch out for

Defensive solidity

With Marcelo ruled out per the Fire’s injury report, the Fire will most likely line-up with Johan Kappelhof and Bastian Schweinsteiger as the center-backs. They’ve conceded a goal in their past two losses but have done rather well in stifling their opponents otherwise. Everyone on the team is going to need to put a defensive shift in to stop a team that is averaging 2.8 goals per game at home. All the focus will be on Carlos Vela but LAFC possess a wide array of threats and the Fire will need to focused the entire game.

Availability of Francisco Calvo

Keeping in line with defensive solidity, it’ll be interesting to see how much time, if any, their new acquisition plays. If he plays, he can partner Schweinsteiger allowing Kappelhof to play at right-back. He could also play at left-back in place of either Corrales or Gutjahr. Trying to stop LAFC will be tough so if he does start, it would be more prudent to play him as a center-back and play Gutjahr who offers more defensively than Corrales.

Containing Carlos Vela

Stopping Carlos Vela is easier said than done as he’s easily been the best player in the league. The Fire are unlikely to stop him but limiting the damage he can do will be key if the Fire want to get any sort of result from the game. This is where a player like Mo Adams will come in handy. Since getting more playing time, his role seems to be of man-marking the rival’s most creative, or influential, player.

In the games where he’s been given this role, he’s done it rather well. It will be a whole different task trying to contain Carlos Vela, but Paunovic seems to have faith in Adams and when given the opportunity, he’s responded with good performances.

Ultimately, there is a reason why LAFC are huge favorites and why they lead the league in a wide array of categories. What the Fire can hang their hat on is they did beat LA last season in what was then Toyota Park.

Going into this three-game road stretch, the match against LAFC was always going to be the toughest. It’s why not getting a point in New York or Montreal is even more frustrating. The Fire will need a minor miracle to get anything out of this game but it is MLS. Stranger things have happened.

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