|Matchup||Chicago Fire (1-0-1, 4 pts.) at Atlanta United FC (1-1-0, 3 pts.)|
|Date||Saturday, March 18 • 3:00 p.m. CT|
|Location||Atlanta, Ga. • Bobby Dodd Stadium|
|Live Stream||Facebook Live via Univision Deportes|
|Spanish Radio||Univision América 1200 (WRTO)|
Fresh off their first three-point outing of the season, head coach Veljko Paunovic's Chicago Fire now face a test on the road from 2017 expansion side Atlanta United FC on Saturday afternoon (3 p.m. CT, UniMas, Facebook Live). The Fire will look to silence what will likely be a packed Bobby Dodd Stadium crowd and continue what has been a solid start to their 2017 campaign. Ahead of Saturday's southern tilt, here are a few key facts, faces and figures to keep in mind:
Key Number: 6
Being just two matches into their existence, Atlanta United FC are a difficult team to quantify when looking for statistical trends in their play so far. For example, they haven’t been great when forced to play wide and cross, yet they’ve got goals from crosses in each of their matches so far. So we’ll keep it simple and go with the number six. Among snowy conditions in the Twin Cities last weekend, Atlanta thumped fellow 2017 expansion side Minnesota United FC to the tune of 6-1, spearheaded by a hat trick from Venezuelan Designated Player Josef Martinez. The club’s South American attacking contingent showed that they’re capable of punishing sloppy defending with an eye for a killer final ball and a willingness to overload the wings to open up space elsewhere. If allowed to combine with one another, there’s no doubting that front four’s ability to make dangerous things happen. The Fire defense -- which showed a level of resolve in beating back RSL pressure last week to maintain a clean sheet -- will have their work cut out for them.
Matchup to Watch: Almiron/Asad vs. McCarty/Harrington
Through two games, Young Designated Player Miguel Almiron has played facilitator in the center of the Atlanta attack. Despite being deployed as a No. 10, he’s shown an early knack to shade more heavily on the left side of the field, combining on the overload with winger Yamil Asad. It’ll be largely up to right back Michael Harrington and midfielder Dax McCarty to disrupt the South American duo along the left flank and prevent through play into danger man Martinez up top.
One Big Question:
Can the Fire establish a dangerous attacking presence of their own?
Don’t let last weekend’s 6-1 result completely fool you. Despite the scoreline, Atlanta still allowed Minnesota to get off 18 total shots (seven on target) and put in 22 crosses. The opportunity to create chances against this defense will be there, and you can bet David Accam and co. are aware of that. How the chemistry among Accam, Michael de Leeuw, Nemanja Nikolic, and Arturo Alvarez continues to develop will certainly be a factor this weekend.
Quote of the Week:
That’s Juninho putting things quite succinctly on Wednesday’s episode of Fire Weekly presented by The PrivateBank. The club showed grit to battle back and steal a point from Columbus on the road in the 2017 season opener, but it’s no secret that getting away results has been a tough task over the last couple seasons. Three points on the road in front of a packed Bobby Dodd Stadium crowd would be quite the statement of intent early on in the season.
Fire Field Vision powered by NovaCare:
From the Media Guide:
- The Fire are 5-3-3 all-time in first meetings against new expansion teams.
- Rookie Fire midfielder Daniel Johnson hails from nearby Duluth, Ga. Though he spent 2009-12 with the West Ham Academy, Johnson represented Greater Atlanta Christian School and Georgia United when he returned to the United States.
- The Fire have previously played one competitive match in Georgia. The Men in Red defeated the Atlanta Silverbacks 3-1 at Silverbacks Park in the quarterfinal round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on July 9, 2014.
- Three Atlanta United players previously spent time with the Fire: goalkeeper Alec Kann (2013-15), Jeff Larentowicz (2013-15) and Kyle Reynish (2014).
- Atlanta United goalkeeper coach Aron Hyde served in the same capacity with the Fire from 2009-15.