LAFC vs Chicago Fire: Preview
LAFC vs Chicago Fire: Preview
By: Benjamin Virgen (5/3/2019)
Can they make it six?
LAFC return to Banc of California Stadium this Saturday when they host the Chicago Fire in a match correspondent to Week 11 of the 2019 MLS season. The Black & Gold will look to continue their dominance at home where they have won five consecutive games to start the season and outscored their opponents 14-4. On the other hand, Chicago has not been very productive on the road this year as they remain winless with three losses and a draw. The Fire are currently on a three-game road trip with Los Angeles being their last stop before returning back home. The Men in Red will look to prevent a third consecutive loss and salvage what has been an unfruitful three-game expedition with a positive result against Los Angeles Football Club. The amount of confidence that LAFC have displayed their football with at the Banc invites for a sixth consecutive win at home. However, Chicago has a talented roster with experienced international quality players that are certainly capable of changing the script of the match.
Light My Fire
On paper, Chicago does not seem as threatening as some of the other teams that LAFC have faced at home this season. Although the Fire does have two wins in 2019, those victories have come against bottom-of-the-table clubs like New York Red Bulls and Colorado Rapids. The bulk of the starting lineup for Chicago is a skillful one that includes a World Cup winner and several other players with European and international experience. Former German international Bastian Schweinsteiger has converted into a respectable center-back that lacks speed but makes up for it with excellent reading of the game and great passing ability. Recently signed attacking midfielder Nico Gaitan has been a terrific asset to the club as he possesses the vision to pick out his teammates in tight spaces and has magnificent ball distribution. His resume of playing in places like Benfica and Atletico Madrid speak on just how talented the Argentine is. Eduard Atuesta will most likely be the one with the responsibility to neutralize Gaitan and prevent him from creating goal-scoring chances for his team.
The danger doesn’t stop there as Chicago have knowledgeable attackers in Nemanja Nikolic and CJ Sapong who lead the team in goals with three and four, respectively. Both are the only players on the squad that have scored on the road for the Fire and will look to continue to add to their total.
With this being their third game in just eleven days, it will be absorbing to see if fatigue starts to become a factor for some of the players during the match. Interestingly enough, Chicago have been a second half team as far as goal production goes. Of the twelve goals they have scored, ten of them have come in the second half so don’t expect the Fire to come out in “attack mode” against LAFC as they like to feel their opponents out first before making any tactical adjustments. Although I do expect LAFC to win this match, Chicago will keep things close by playing the long ball to their forwards and pressing the Black & Gold defenders into a turnover, something that the Fire have become very good at.
Light My Candle
Banc of California Stadium has become a real fortress for LAFC as they have made it extremely difficult for opponents when they visit Los Angeles. The energy the 3252 transmits down to the players on the pitch has developed into a beautiful relationship that has helped LAFC start the season with a perfect home record. The Black & Gold will put their undefeated streak on the line once again as they look to remain in 1st place of the Western Conference.
With Steven Beitashour returning to full training this week after missing the Seattle match due to injury, the defender will return to the starting lineup at his usual right-back position. We definitely do not expect Eddie Segura to have another accident like he did last weekend but his aerial defensive skills along with Walker Zimmerman’s will be tested as Chicago likes to send long balls up for their forwards to chase. The communication between Tyler Miller and his defenders will be very important when it comes to dealing with these situations during the match. Bob Bradley will have a choice to make in the midfield as Lee Nguyen has declared himself fit to play 90 minutes if required. Latif Blessing has been absolutely magnificent for Bradley’s side in Nguyen’s absence and his recent form will make Bob’s decision that much more difficult.
Bob Bradley makes the calls off the field but team captain Carlos Vela has been the one pulling the strings in the offense for LAFC. The league’s leading goal-scorer and assist leader has been on a mission towards the MVP award as the Mexican has scored in five of the last six games for his club. The most impressive characteristic about Vela is his leadership by action attitude that has led his teammates to follow by displaying impressive performances themselves. Successfully dealing with the long balls in the air, getting an early lead and not committing fouls in dangerous areas are all key factors to win this match. The Fire has been a speculative team on the road as they allow their opponents the initiative and rely on set-pieces and turnovers to score goals on the road. If LAFC can sharpen their accuracy on goal as opposed to the many missed opportunities in Seattle, a sixth consecutive win at home is on the horizon.
Motivation in football is necessary and this game between LAFC and the Chicago will have plenty of it. The Fire will look to be the first team to take away any points from the Banc this season and in consequence showcase their football against the top team in MLS. As for the Black & Gold, the opportunity to play at the Banc in front of their fans and winning games while staying true to their style of football is more than enough stimulation to get a result against Chicago. Let’s hope for a win and another stellar team performance. See you at the Banc!