Chicago went into the weekend with something to prove. Atlanta demolished a ten man Chicago team, 4-0, away from home at the beginning of the season. Going into the match, it was important for Paunovic’s men to come out with that sense of revenge and anger in order to defend the fortress of Toyota Park.
It did’t seem like that urgency was there right away as Atlanta controlled much of the ball and the pace of the game in the first half. After many failed Atlanta opportunities, Chicago were the first ones to find the back of the net. It was Basti who set Accam free on the left wing. Accam pulled the keeper off the line, turned, and managed to find Luis Solignac who slotted the ball into the empty net.
The second half saw The Fire get much more control of the ball. After a few more Chicago missed chances, Atlanta brought in two star subs, Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez. With two attacking stars subbing into the game, it seemed like a missed opportunity with half an hour still on the clock in Bridgeview. The second goal came five minutes later when the ball drove right into the outstretched arm of Atlanta’s Tyrone Mears. Niko stepped up to the penalty spot and put away his 12th goal of the season. Nemanja Nikolic continues to hold the golden boot.
After the second goal, Chicago did a good job slowing down the match and keeping Atlanta on the back foot. Now 15 games into the season, Chicago are already at 28 points. This is in comparison to the 31 points Chicago landed after last seasons 34 matches. This year’s Chicago team is also now one point behind the supporter shield leaders, Toronto FC.
The recent undefeated run of Chicago could be credited towards the staff’s tactical switches. Primarily, Chicago has managed to get Schweinsteiger on the ball significantly more by pushing him deeper into more of a fifth defender role. This lets Basti organize the defense and then begin the attack from deep. In addition, Solignac and De Leeuw have been much more interchangeable. Both have done more dirty work rather than be a goal poacher or push the opposing defensive line back. Finally, Juninho has gotten more freedom moving forward due to Schwein’s defensive responsibility. It will be interesting too see how the return of Dax will shift the tactical alignment of the midfield.
The combination of these tactics combined with the insanely underrated center back pairing of Kappelhof and Meira is a formula for success in the windy city.
Wednesday, Chicago hit the road on 55 South to take on former USL affiliate, St. Louis FC. Joey Calistri and Collin Fernandez continue their stint with Tulsa and are cap tied for the cup moving forward. All other Loanees and younger developing players should look for a chance to replace some of the usual international starters on the roster. These younger players could have a chance to prove themselves because pro teams are limited to listing five international players during the cup.