Chicago Fire vs Colorado Rapids Preview

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Chicago Fire vs Colorado Rapids Preview by Chris Brown

Colorado Rapids travel to Toyota Park to take on Bastian Schweinsteiger and the Chicago Fire.

Chicago have yet to lose in their first five home matches of 2017 and have won four of those five early home matches. Meanwhile the Rapids have yet to earn a single point on the road in 2017 having fallen in all four of their early season road games.

2017’s version of the Chicago Fire has been formidable with Schweinsteiger, Accam and Nikolic enjoying fine starts to the season. (Photo Credit: Don Mac Gregor)

Chicago come into the match in good form having beaten Seattle Sounders 4-1 at the weekend behind MLS Team of the Week performances from Nemanja Nikolic and David Accam. Both players are currently enjoying hot streaks for the Fire as Nikolic has scored seven goals in his last six games while Accam notched a goal and an assist against the Sounders for the second match running.

Dax McCarthy and Bastian Schweinsteiger have both been welcome additions to a side that finished dead last in the Supporter’s Shield Standings in 2016 and have rejuvenated the Chicago midfield substantially. In 2016 the Fire averaged just 0.8 goals per game and have seen that number jump to 1.7 goals per game so far this campaign. The credit for the attack has to be the improved play from the Chicago midfield that has finally been able to maintain meaningful possession in attacking areas and has the quality from players like Schweinsteiger and Accam to pick out passes that create havoc for opposing defenses.

Shkelzen Gashi was excellent roaming free against San Jose, but can the winger replicate his performance against Chicago? (Photo Credit: Corbin Elliott)

Colorado is coming off their second win of 2017 after snapping a five match losing skid against San Jose Earthquakes on May 13th. Goals from Shkelzen Gashi in both halves as well as a Dominique Badji strike gave Colorado their best offensive performance of the season and a fine defensive display rounded out a complete victory for a Rapids side that was desperate for a win. The Rapids are still last in the Western Conference and Supporter’s Shield standings with seven points from nine games, but the result against the Earthquakes will give the team and Rapids fans hope ahead of a two game road trip that starts Wednesday against the Fire.

In Colorado’s win over San Jose, Pablo Mastroeni shook up the team’s tactics up by changing from a 4-5-1 formation to a 4-4-2 formation. The formation spread the Colorado midfield out and created space that has been lacking from Colorado’s previous set up, which was designed to clog the midfield and protect the back four. It’ll be interesting to see if Mastroeni decides to play with the same 4-4-2 formation or if he’ll opt for the more cautious 4-5-1 formation in a tough road game.

Shkelzen Gashi will be the man the watch for Colorado as the Albanian Winger is finally healthy and playing well for Colorado. Against the Earthquakes Gashi started on the right wing but switched sides several times with Mohammed Saeid, who started the match on the left wing. Gashi was given freedom to roam around the pitch to affect play and the experiment was overwhelmingly successful against San Jose. In the past, Pablo has a tendency to award good performances from players or strategies with repetition, so there’s a very good chance we’ll be seeing Gashi roaming freely around the pitch at Toyota Park.

Though new additions Schweinsteiger and McCarthy have grabbed the early headlines and attention in the Chicago midfield, David Accam remains one of Chicago’s best and most consistent players and will be a constant threat for the Fire. Finally complimented with a better supporting cast than in previous seasons, Accam has sparkled for Chicago, and with all the attacking emphasis taken from his shoulders the Ghanaian Designate Player could enjoy his finest season yet in MLS. He’ll have earned a heavy dose of pre-match preparation from the visiting team at the very least.

Bastian Schweinsteiger and Dax MaCarthy have reinvigorated the Fire midfield to great effect in 2017. (Photo Credit: Don Mac Gregor)

In previous seasons this game wouldn’t have been a marquee matchup for MLS but with the Fire playing well and Colorado starting to show signs of life, Wednesday night’s match could be a cracker.

It would be fair to expect goals, but the winner of this match may come down to home and away form. Colorado has yet to earn a single point on the road in 2017 while Chicago have yet to lose when playing in Toyota Park. The Fire’s win over Seattle marked the team’s first sellout crowd since September of 2015, if the supporter’s come out in force again this Wednesday, it could be a very long and very loud night for the traveling Rapids.

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