The Chicago Fire are the best team in MLS that is A. located in Illinois, B. has LESS points than players on an active, full gameday roster, and/or C. has part of their name based on a three word element themed band name from the 70s and on. Turns out 15 points from 16 matches gets you a pretty bad points per game and overall standing in the league, 20th of 20. It is possible that they rank lower than Atlanta United FC in the next power ranking. They should not be taken lightly though because they can burn you (no, I will not stop with fire puns, so too bad for you). They do have four wins and three came in a row against Philly, NYCFC (before they figured out how to win), and Toronto when was in the midst of a four game losing streak. They've won once since late April and that was against a very weak Montreal side. They are coming into this weekend breaking their four game losing streak with a draw last week against Houston. So what should we be looking out for this weekend, shots and lots of them.
Oh and the Sounders are 5-1-0 in the last six matches against ChiTown, with one being a 6-0 extinguishing in the US Open Cup last year.
Shots, Shots, Shots
If they took one more shot a game they would be eligible for a free one their next night at the bar. The Fire average 14.6 shots a game and gives them the lead league. They only average 4.8 shots on target which is about 33%. They score just over a goal a game 1.13, which is an 8% conversion rate, aka pretty poor. Remember that LMFAO shots song that Soundwave used to play before free kicks, well it is kind of the same theme. The more shots of you take, the drunker you get, and more likely the darts you throw will miss. Chicago faces the same issue, it turns out the more shots you take does not make you more accurate. They HOPE that rebounds will come from this, if Harry Shipp doesn't just score on a 30 yard blast, but in reality they are poor shots that miss wide or are easily saved. This is good news for Troy Perkins, a lot of easy shots early will feed his confidence to make all the saves necessary to get a shutout. In case you were wondering, 94% of their shots are from outside the 6-yard box.
Side note: Only 11 of the 18 goals are from the run of play, four are set pieces and three are penalties. They just do not score that much, so do not be concerned when they keep taking shots.
Remember that tale of a cow starting a major fire in Chicago, you do? Good, that has nothing to do with this but I find it funny and sad. Now onto the wing attack. Turns out this is yet another team that will attack via the wing. They prefer the left side but even the right side serves as a major attacking lynchpin. The center though, not so much.
The difference for Chicago versus most sides we've seen use the wings is that they do not use the counter attack. For one reason or another Chicago does not typically counter attack, their use of the wings is to attempt to hold possession, pass it around, and stretch a defense. Similar to the Sounders attack we saw against NYCFC, Chicago will attempt to hold possession on a wing side and then break into final third before typically putting the ball at the top of the box for a shot.
Chicago has a bit of speed of the wings with David Accam, who may not play, and Harry Shipp. Shipp while not the fastest player, knows how to dribble by and through a defense to get into a dangerous position. He does not need speed. This means a high chance that Tyrone Mears and Dylan Remick will be able to get forward, while possession will be held in the wings, they do not have to be prepared for a counter or someone racing down the sideline. A slow attack allows them to get forward without much concern which is pivotal when you are missing Clintfemi.
Well I was going to tell you about how they plan an offside trap but that involve two things: 1. Stats to back this up and 2. To believe that Neagle will get called offside. Okay...so neither of things have stopped me before. Fact is, this defense for some reason thought playing an offside trap with Frank Yallop as the coach was a good idea, but magically not a single member of the backline understands how to play it well. From what I can tell, they average about three offsides a game which is probably what everyone averages without playing a trap, so it has earned them nothing. Turns out Lamar averages about .5 offsides a game and that includes his time as a winger, I would be concerned that he would be called offside normally and this does not really change that concern. He and Chad Barrett, or whoever is starting, need to be careful.
On other side of the field, Chicago gets called off a lot. The offense seems to think that the offside trap means that they can not be called off and yet they average 3.4 per game, or the third highest in MLS total and second highest average. For a non-counter attacking team, this should be concerning to Fire fans. Zach Scott and Chad Marshall are pretty wisemen and know how to step up when they need to and this match will be a perfect time to show that experience. Of their offside offenders Quincy Amarikwa and David Accam each average 1.1 per game, but with Accam possibly out with an injury and Amarikwa burned his view from the bridge and was sent to the outdoor bar known as Avaya Stadium. This does not mean they will not go offside but that it'll be new members of the offside club.
Players to Watch
This list should include Shaun Maloney but he's out with a bulging disk, so the DP attacking mid will be absent from his role as Fire Chief and Marshall.
1. Kennedy Igboananike- Nine appearances, six starts, for the Nigerian DP striker. He only has two goals and one assist this year but has been hampered by injuries. Maloney and Shipp have run the offense and even with Igboananike on the field, the others take control. Without Maloney, Amarikwa, and Accam, it'll be up to Shipp and Kennedy to do it all.
2. Harry Shipp- The Captain of this Shipp, the Chicago homegrown player is one of the best young players in the league. He does not back down from a defense and can tear one apart with his dribbling or shooting. Not the best passer or crosser, even though he starts on the wings. he'll cut inside and get shots off and create loads of problems for a defense. It'll take a very in tuned Tyrone Mears and CBs to ensure that Shipp does set sail in this one and sink the Sounders. This kid can do it all, if Chicago gets a goal, Shipp will have been the catalyst.
3. Adailton- He should be Seattle's favorite centerback. Problem one for him: No Jeff Larentowicz, the converted CDM is not there to help control meaning that fullback Eric Gehrig slides into the middle. Both make a lot of mistakes but Adailton has for most of the season and is a true CB. He does not commit a terrible amount of fouls, only one 1.4 a game, but when he does, he commits them in very dangerous spots. He has four yellows in 14 appearances. Overall fouls aren't a concern, it is the mistakes. Without his normal partner it'll make it worse but the key takeaway I want you to have from this section is the number 2. Against Orlando City, he scored not once but twice; for the purple lions. He is mistake prone, let's seize that.
Without Jeff Larentowicz, Shaun Maloney, Joevin Jones (starting left back is with Trinidad and Tobago at the Gold Cup) and potentially David Accam, it'll be a little different look than typical. Without Maloney, they'll likely stay in a 4-4-2 like they did against Houston last week.
It'll be Jason Johnson at LM because I have not seen an update on David Accam, if Accam can go he'll slot in out left for sure. Guly is the go to backup striker as Mike Magee does not have full 90 fitness, if he does Magee with definitely be the starting striker. It'll be a fun one in "Chicago" as we douse Yallop's side.