Chicago Fire vs. FC Dallas | 2017 MLS Match Preview
Chicago Fire vs. FC Dallas
2017 MLS Regular Season
Toyota Park – Bridgeview, Ill.
Thursday, May 25 – 8:30 pm ET
WATCH: MLS LIVE
After a quick, successful trip to D.C. over the weekend, the Chicago Fire will return home looking to extend their winning streak to four against an FC Dallas side that lost their first game of the season on Saturday.
Chicago are at their highest point in years, riding a three-game winning streak and sitting in second place in the East and third in the Supporters’ Shield standings. The hot run has the Fire deservedly feeling confident heading into Thursday’s encounter.
“I’ve seen more improvement in the past four or five weeks with this team than I even thought would be possible,” Dax McCarty said after Saturday’s win at D.C. “I think our mentality is starting to shift from that to, ‘We can start to really do some damage in this league.’”
Dallas only have one loss in their first 10 games, but things aren’t quite as rosy down in the Big D. After losing their first match of the year Saturday night at home to San Jose, Dallas have taken just four points from their last four matches. They’ve got a tough week on tap, too, as they’ll follow Thursday’s match in Bridgeview with a Texas derby match at home against Houston on Sunday night.
“This was the game we needed to win to start this little mini-trip,” defender Walker Zimmerman said after Saturday’s defeat. “Three games in a week is always tough. We wanted to get the result at home, and now I think it gives us some urgency to respond in Chicago and pick up some points we might have dropped here.”
Bastian Schweinsteiger, McCarty and Juninho drew more headlines when they were acquired, but Nemanja Nikolic has perhaps been the Fire’s most important player in 2017. The Hungarian forward has had no issues transferring his fantastic strike rate to MLS from Legia Warsaw, recording braces in recent home wins against Seattle and Colorado to take the MLS lead with 10 goals in his first 12 games.
He hasn’t yet come up against a center back pairing like FCD’s, however. Zimmerman and reigning Defender of the Year Matt Hedges might be the most formidable center back duo in the league. They’ve made a habit of shutting down star strikers since the start of 2016, marshaling Dallas’ stingy defense as they’ve conceded a league-best seven goals in 10 games this year.
- Suspended: NONE
- Int’l Duty: NONE
- Injury Report: OUT: M – John Goossens (right ankle surgery), GK – Jorge Bava (head injury); QUESTIONABLE: M – Juninho (right ankle sprain)
Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Matt Lampson – Brandon Vincent, Joao Meira, Johan Kappelhof, Matt Polster – Dax McCarty, Bastian Schweinsteiger – David Accam, Michael de Leeuw, Luis Solignac – Nemanja Nikolic
Notes: The Fire have won four straight home games. The last time they won five or more home games in a row was a seven-game streak from July 14th to September 22nd, 2012. There have been 72 Fire home games since then. ... In 832 minutes with Schweinsteiger on the field this year, the Fire are averaging 1.8 goals per 90 minutes played. In 313 minutes where he is not on the field, that number falls to 1.1 goals per 90.
Hedges and Zimmerman will have their hands full, but it’s Dallas’ attack that’s been the real reason behind their recent downtick. Apart from a 3-0 win at Real Salt Lake on May 6, FCD have struggled to get going offensively, scoring only 14 goals this year and recording just one tally in their last two games.
Maxi Urruti has been solid, but offseason signings Cristian Colman and Roland Lamah have yet to really get going. With Mauro Diaz still out injured and Urruti quiet in his last few games, FCD will need to get some production out of someone else to break out of their mild case of the doldrums.
- Suspended: NONE
- Int’l Duty: NONE
- Injury Report: OUT: M – Mauro Diaz (torn Achilles tendon), M – Paxton Pomykal (knee surgery)
Projected Starting XI (4-4-2): Jesse Gonzalez – Hernan Grana, Walker Zimmerman, Matt Hedges, Maynor Figueroa – Michael Barrios, Carlos Gruezo, Kellyn Acosta, Roland Lamah – Tesho Akindele, Maxi Urruti
Notes: FC Dallas is unbeaten in nine consecutive away games, but has won only three of those games (6D). They have only allowed two goals in their last seven road games (four 0-0 draws). ... FC Dallas are tied with eight other MLS teams for fewest goals scored in the last 15 minutes of first halves of games this year, with just one goal. They are the only team in the league who has yet to concede a goal in the last 15 minutes of a first half.
FC Dallas holds the narrow all-time edge against Chicago, and have won nine Brimstone Cups — the trophy given to the winner of the season series between the clubs — to five for Chicago. But the Fire have won four of the last five meetings against Dallas, posting two shutouts along the way.
- Overall: Chicago 15 wins (62 goals) ... Dallas 21 wins (73 goals) ... Ties 4
- At Chicago: Chicago 11 wins (36 goals) ... Dallas 8 wins (27 goals) ... Ties 2
Referee: Jose Carlos Rivero
Assistant Referees: Logan Brown, Gianni Facchini
Fourth Official: Silviu Petrescu