Contrary to familiar form and popular cynicism the Chicago Fire put together a hard-nosed performance to earn a 1-0 win over the visiting Columbus Crew SC in week six. The Fire’s 2017 signings were the brightest players on the field yet again. Not only are the new players upgrades to their replacements but they appear to be raising the form of their teammates. The same will need to be true again in week seven as the Fire welcome the New England Revolution.
New Fire Players Will be Key Again Versus Revs
The new Men In Red are showing just why head coach Veljko Paunovic and general manager Nelson Rodriguez brought them on board. First year Fire forward Nemanja Nikolic netted last weeks only goal. First year Fire midfielder Dax McCarty assisted Nikolic’s goal in a man of the match performance. The former New York Red Bulls captain also donned the Fire’s captain armband for the first time. His vocal leadership has been on display since the opening game in Columbus in March. He both directs his teammates on the field vocally and with his work rate. McCarty has also pushed for accountability by making some brutally honest post game comments. The Fire have needed some uncompromising stubbornness and McCarty looks to be bringing it.
A Hot But Uneven Revolution
The New England Revolution come into Toyota Park riding on a three game unbeaten streak. The Eastern Conference rivals don’t appear to be very consistent however. A good deal of their games have been decided on missed chances and comical play in the defensive third of the field. The Revs are also yet to win on the road. The all-time record against New England has the Fire ahead at 22-19-11 and a home record of 13-5-8. The Revolution could cause the Fire trouble if the big three of Nguyen, Kamara, and Agudelo catch the Fire defenders in one on one or counter attack situations. The Fire will need to stay focused until the final whistle as the Revs appear to often score late and from broken plays.
Schweinsteiger and the Goalies
The anticipation seems to rise with each passing week since the arrival of Bastian Schweinsteiger to Chicago. Heading into the world champion’s third game with the Fire, many exciting questions come to mind. How much better will he be after third week of training with the squad? How much better will he make his teammates? Will the club record signing get his name on the scoresheet again? How will coach Paunovic set up his team with Juninho returning from suspension? Even if the Fire rebuild doesn’t earn greatness this year, the pre match anticipation and squad selection challenges have made huge gains already this season.
While last week’s prediction was not quite accurate, let’s give it another try. Week seven against the New England Revolution may be the real Bastian Schweinsteiger coming out party. The additional training and time with the squad may reveal a new sharpness yet to be seen from Schweinsteiger in a Fire shirt. The German midfielder scores one and assists on at least one more. Another key factor of this match may come down to which goalkeeper makes the decisive flub. The Revolution have an inexperience goalkeeper in Cody Cropper and Chicago’s Jorge Bava has slapped a number of crosses back into dangerous areas. Both of these keepers look very capable of producing a howler which may well factor into Saturday’s result.
Winning Will Help Long Road Trip
If the Fire defeat the Revs, Chicago will have taken an impressive seven points from a possible nine during April’s three game home stand. The Men In Red will then be away from Toyota park for a month. The lengthy road trip includes stops in Toronto, New York, and Los Angeles. After Saturdays match, the next Fire home game is not until May 13th against the MLS champion Seattle Sounders.