Chicago Fire vs Inter Miami: Week 20 Preview
After winning two games straight, the Chicago Fire have exceeded expectations for their final home-stand before a long-dreaded six game road trip. Now, they need to use that momentum and build on it if they want to make the playoffs. However, not only is their history on the road sketchy enough, they will be first tasked with challenging another team that’s trying to dig itself out of a hold in the Eastern Conference: Inter Miami.
Earlier this week for the Chicago Fire, Ignacio Aliseda and Miguel Navarro were both listed as questionable going into the game against Columbus, so it’s likely that they will remain under that designation for this one as well. Alvaro Medran is still on an undisclosed health protocol, though coach Raphael Wicky insists that the entire club is vaccinated. And returning is Kenneth Kronholm, who’s been upgraded from “out” to “questionable” recently. For Inter Miami, former Fire fullback Joevin Jones is set to be out of this one and both Robbie Robinson and Ryan Shawcross are listed as questionable.
Here are three things to consider going into the game.
We are now quickly closing in on two years since the Chicago Fire’s last win on the road. Raphael Wicky has not won a road game in his entire tenure with the Fire, the last win coming with Veljko Paunovic’s last game on October 6th, 2019. The last big gap like this was from July 12th, 2014 to August 20th, 2016. The difference is that there were a bit more games played in that last streak, but the result is the same: The Chicago Fire need to win a road game at some point.
It’s something that’s going to stick to this team’s psyche for a long time and they need to win the “easy” games on the road if they can even hope to survive the next month away from Soldier Field.
Pull Yourself Together
Both the Chicago Fire and Inter Miami are already in crunch-mode. It’s still “Do or Die” for the Fire as they’re not quite dead yet and for Inter Miami, they were supposed to be much better than this. So with things the way they are, both teams are trying to give a late push. And while it’s definitely a steep climb, it’s reachable for both teams.
Right now, the team in the final playoff spot for the Eastern Conference is CF Montreal, who are sitting on 26 points at 19 games played. This puts them 6 points ahead of the Fire on the same amount of games played. For Miami, that’s 10 points ahead, but Miami has two games in hand. Realistically, neither of these teams are reaching the playoffs. But, mathematically, it is possible for either of them to overtake Montreal. And that run would have to start with this game.
Luka Stojanovic has not only been helping with a fan-driven initiative for a local food bank by pledging his own money, but in the past two games he’s provided three goals that have each triggered everyone’s pledges per goals scored. But, outside of the amazing things that he’s doing for his community, Luka now has a firm grip on the goal-scoring lead for the Chicago Fire. This is leading to a lot of fans questioning why it took so long for Luka to break back into the starting lineup after making his last five appearances off the bench. In fact, his start against the New York Red Bulls two weeks ago was his first since June.
I think that his exile from the first team had less to do with his ability or the coach’s opinion of him, and more to do with how he fit into the new formation that was introduced. Because he really didn’t. The weird 4-man blob in the center of the pitch has now dissipated since Gaston Gimenez’s return and Przemslaw Frankowski’s exit, but it worked on this basic idea: Two attacking midfielders that shifted in and out into wide positions and taking turns being the second striker, a deep playmaker, and Fabian Herbers, whose job it was to run around and cause pressure or move the ball to the people who need it. I don’t think that any of those four roles are right for Luka. Or at least, it wasn’t really right to start Luka over anyone else in those specific roles.
Now that there are less options and some things in the strategy have changed, Luka’s been given a chance to start again. And, at the very least, he’s making a major difference.
Chicago Fire (5-2-2-1): Bobby Shuttleworth; Francisco Calvo, Jonathan Bornstein, Mauricio Pineda, Carlos Teran, Boris Sekulic; Alvaro Medran, Gaston Gimenez; Luka Stojanovic, Elliot Collier; Chinonso Offor
Inter Miami (4-3-3): Nick Marsman; Kieran Gibbs, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Jorge Figal, Kelvin Leerdam; Blaise Matuidi, Gregore, Victor Ulloa; Rodolfo Pizarro, Gonzalo Higuain, Lewis Morgan
How To Watch
Wednesday, August 18th, 6:30PM CDT; At DRV PNK Stadium in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, broadcasting on WGN and online through the Chicago Fire website