The Chicago Fire will look to win back-to-back games for the first time since 2017 when they take on Minnesota United at SeatGeek Stadium. The Fire are coming off their best performance of the season in a 5-0 rout against the New England Revolution.
Head coach Veljko Paunovic has consistently been banging the drum about starting a winning streak and the Fire are presented with another opportunity at accomplishing that. They face a Minnesota side coming off a three-game homestand in which they only won one of those three games.
But the Fire are nothing if not consistently inconsistent.
Too often this season we’ve seen the team follow up a good performance with a bad one. They followed up a dominant win versus Colorado with two straight clunkers on the road. We’ve also seen them struggle with opposition similar to their level. For example, the draws against Orlando City and the Vancouver Whitecaps.
The Fire have been better at home and do create goal-scoring opportunities. The key, much like it is for every team, is to convert those chances when the opportunities present themselves. They did exactly that in their last two home wins.
Nevertheless, Minnesota United will be a tricky opponent for a myriad of reasons. The first being that they are no pushovers. They sit in the middle of the table well inside playoff qualifications. Darwin Quintero is their biggest threat and the team’s highest scorer with five goals. In addition, they are tied for second, alongside two other teams, with the most amount of goals scored. They’ve also come out victorious in their only two meetings.
What to watch out for
“Reunited and it feels so good”
Francisco Calvo, the Fire’s newest acquisition, will be facing his former side for the first time since being dealt. It’s bound to be a special occasion for Calvo as he did not leave Minnesota in the best of terms.
He started in the game versus New England and was a second-half substitute against LAFC and on both occasions played rather well. Given his versatility, it’ll be interesting to see where Paunovic deploys him in that backline. We’ve seen how well he is with the ball at his feet and can give the team another outlet on the left if used as a left-back.
The important thing with Calvo will be to see how well he can keep his emotions in check. In his final games with Minnesota, he lost his head in a few of those and picked up some unnecessary yellow and red cards. The talent is there. His objective will be keeping things in check when they go wrong.
We mentioned the importance of a winning streak but there’s another streak that one player, in particular, will be looking to extend.
That player is Nemanja Nikolic.
He scored a brace his last time out but also missed a couple of chances before that. If the Fire want to build any sort of consistent winning streak, it’s going to be important for Nikolic to put away the chances he gets.
Spreading the goals around
Building off the earlier point, the Fire have done a solid job of getting contributions from other sides of the pitch besides Nikolic.
Nico Gaitan scored his first goal for the club in the last game and Brandt Bronico and Przemyslaw Frankowski also contributed with goals of their own. CJ Sapong has chipped in with four goals this season and Aleksandar Katai has also written his name on the scoresheet.
With the talent up top this team possesses, it’s a good sign that they are receiving contributions from everyone because it means that other players are getting into good positions and finishing their chances.
That’s definitely been aided by the arrival of the aforementioned Gaitan, who had two assists to go with his goal and is looking more and more comfortable on the pitch as each game goes by. He’ll continue to be an important piece for this side going forward but so far, so good for the Argentine.
Chicago is a better team than what their record indicates. They need to build upon their win against New England and with the transfer window closing, the pieces they have will have to be enough if they want to contend for a playoff spot.