Chicago Fire vs Nashville SC: Week 13 Preview

Jun 23, 2021; Nashville, TN, USA; Nashville SC midfielder Hany Mukhtar (10) handles the ball during the second half against the Toronto FC at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 23, 2021; Nashville, TN, USA; Nashville SC midfielder Hany Mukhtar (10) handles the ball during the second half against the Toronto FC at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

Despite all odds, the Chicago Fire have found a way to get 7 points out of a home stand where they lost to what was, at the time, the worst team in the league. And with the way that the Fire are playing, they seem to have genuinely found a system that works for the players that they have. But there are still a ton of asterisks on those wins, including the fact that all were at home. Now, they travel down south towards Nashville where they’ll find another conundrum in Nashville SC. Let’s see who will be there.

The CONCACAF Gold Cup is still ongoing, which means that not only are the Chicago Fire still missing Francisco Calvo, Nashville is missing Walker Zimmerman, Alistair Johnston, and Anibal Godoy. As for injuries, both Mauricio Pineda and Ignacio Aliseda came off against Orlando with injuries, but according to comments after the match they should be fine for this one.

Here are three things to pay attention to in this match:

B-Sides and Other Rarities

Earlier, I mentioned asterisks on the Chicago Fire’s 7 points out of the last three games. A big one was that they were playing at home and the game against Philadelphia was a story on its own, but the main commonality is that none of the three teams they played against sent out their best squad. The Philadelphia Union used the Fire game as a chance to let some homegrown players get some playing time, Atlanta United physically couldn’t field a better team due to injuries and call-ups, and Orlando City must’ve just under-estimated the Fire when they chose to sit Nani and Chris Mueller.

Everything seems great now with the beginnings of a win streak off the trail of a tactical shift, but we don’t actually know anything yet. The Fire’s new system has yet to face an opponent coming at them with full strength and they’ve also yet to be tested away from home. And now, they’re going to be up against a team that is hungry for something other than a draw that has seen what happens to teams that underestimate Chicago.

Music City Miracle

I know that I only ever talk about the Chicago Fire, but that’s sort of my job. There’s not enough people in general in MLS that are talking about how weird Nashville SC is right now. Nashville aren’t bad, but they’re not exactly considered a top team. Until you look at their analytics. Nashville has the third best xG and the lowest xGA, which makes their xGD stupidly high. They are one of the best teams at getting shots off of set pieces and rebounds, which obviously explains the massive xG numbers because their shots on target total is just so high.

This is really interesting, not because they’re obviously underperforming these seemingly inflated numbers, but because Nashville wasn’t exactly a team considered a top attacking threat going into the season. They weren’t exactly seen as a top defensive team either, but there they are allowing the least shots on target.

While they’ve spent most of the season taking draws left and right, this is a team that is already performing way above expectations.

Tear Us Apart Again

After two wins and one surprising draw, the Chicago Fire have scored three goals in each of their last three games using this new formation. They haven’t even really changed the lineup. There were no changes between the Atlanta and Orlando games and there were only two between the Philly and Atlanta games due to international call-ups. This Starting Xi is going to be hard to break up. But they also kind of have to be broken up at some point.

Jonathan Bornstein’s leadership on the back-line may appear to be an improvement, but Francisco Calvo is still the permanent captain this season. And while the midfield may finally have found a place of equilibrium with their box-like amalgamation in the middle third, Gaston Gimenez is back and he’s a Designated Player. It’s uncertain where these two players will fit in, especially when the current squad is playing so well, but it’s likely that we won’t see this XI like this for much longer. Especially if they don’t win this next match.

Projected XI

Chicago Fire (5-2-2-1): Bobby Shuttleworth; Miguel Navarro, Jonathan Bornstein, Mauricio Pineda, Johan Kappelhof, Boris Sekulic; Alvaro Medran, Fabian Herbers; Ignacio Aliseda, Przemyslaw Frankowski; Robert Beric

Nashville SC (5-3-2): Joe Willis; Daniel Lovitz, David Romney, Jalil Anibaba, Jack Maher, Alex Muyl; Brian Anunga, Randall Leal, Dax McCarty; Hany Mukhtar, CJ Sapong

How To Watch

Saturday, July 17th, 7:30PM CDT; At Nissan Stadium in Nashville, TN, on WGN and online on the Chicago Fire website