Teams: Chicago Fire vs. FC Dallas
Kick-off: 06:00 AM, Toyota Park – Bridgeview, Ill.
Where to Watch: Catch live action on DSport, this Friday
Last Game Played: Jul 17, 2016; DAL 3 – 1 CHI
Season Goal leaders: Chicago Fire – Nemanja Nikolic (10 goals), FC Dallas – Maximiliano Urruti (6 goals)
Chicago Fire clinched a very rare victory last weekend as they beat DC United by 1-0. The Fire will return to their home ground Toyota Park looking to extend their winning streak to four against the FC Dallas side that lost their first game of the season. The match kicks off at 06:00am on Friday and will be televised live on DSport.
Chicago Fire are at their highest point in years, riding a three-game winning streak and sitting in second place in the East and third in the Supporters’ Shield standings. They looked a lot more confident about their play.
FC Dallas, unlike their opponents, didn’t have the best of times last weekend. They lost 1-0 at home to San Jose Earthquakes, ending their unbeaten start to the MLS season and leaving them 3rd in the MLS Western Conference. They’ve got a tough week on tap, too, as they’ll follow Friday’s match in Bridgeview with a Texas derby match at home against Houston on Sunday night.
All eyes will be on the Nemanja Nikolic seeing his last few performances in this MLS season. The Hungarian forward has had no issues transferring his fantastic strike rate to MLS from Legia Warsaw, recording braces in recent home wins against Seattle and Colorado to take the MLS lead with 10 goals in his first 12 games.
He hasn’t yet come up against a center back pairing like FCD’s, however. Zimmerman and reigning Defender of the Year Matt Hedges might be the most formidable center back duo in the league. They’ve made a habit of shutting down star strikers since the start of 2016, marshaling Dallas’ stingy defense as they’ve conceded a league-best seven goals in 10 games this year.
Hedges and Zimmerman will have their hands full, but it’s Dallas’ attack that’s been the real reason behind their recent downtick. Apart from a 3-0 win at Real Salt Lake on May 6, FCD have struggled to get going offensively, scoring only 14 goals this year and recording just one tally in their last two games.
Maxi Urruti has been solid, but offseason signings Cristian Colman and Roland Lamah have yet to really get going. With Mauro Diaz still out injured and Urruti quiet in his last few games, FCD will need to get some production out of someone else to break out of their mild case of the doldrums.
- Suspended: NONE
- Int’l Duty: NONE
- Injury Report: OUT: M – John Goossens (right ankle surgery), GK – Jorge Bava (head injury); QUESTIONABLE: M – Juninho (right ankle sprain)
- Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Matt Lampson – Brandon Vincent, Joao Meira, Johan Kappelhof, Matt Polster – Dax McCarty, Bastian Schweinsteiger – David Accam, Michael de Leeuw, Luis Solignac – Nemanja Nikolic
Notes: The Fire have won four straight home games. The last time they won five or more home games in a row was a seven-game streak from July 14th to September 22nd, 2012. There have been 72 Fire home games since then. … In 832 minutes with Schweinsteiger on the field this year, the Fire are averaging 1.8 goals per 90 minutes played. In 313 minutes where he is not on the field, that number falls to 1.1 goals per 90.
- Suspended: NONE
- Int’l Duty: NONE
- Injury Report: OUT: M – Mauro Diaz (torn Achilles tendon), M – Paxton Pomykal (knee surgery)
- Projected Starting XI (4-4-2): Jesse Gonzalez – Hernan Grana, Walker Zimmerman, Matt Hedges, Maynor Figueroa – Michael Barrios, Carlos Gruezo, Kellyn Acosta, Roland Lamah – Tesho Akindele, Maxi Urruti
Notes: FC Dallas is unbeaten in nine consecutive away games, but has won only three of those games (6D). They have only allowed two goals in their last seven road games (four 0-0 draws). … FC Dallas are tied with eight other MLS teams for fewest goals scored in the last 15 minutes of first halves of games this year, with just one goal. They are the only team in the league who has yet to concede a goal in the last 15 minutes of a first half.
FC Dallas holds the narrow all-time edge against Chicago, and have won nine Brimstone Cups — the trophy given to the winner of the season series between the clubs — to five for Chicago. But the Fire have won four of the last five meetings against Dallas, posting two shutouts along the way.
Overall: Chicago 15 wins (62 goals) … Dallas 21 wins (73 goals) … Ties 4
At Chicago: Chicago 11 wins (36 goals) … Dallas 8 wins (27 goals) … Ties 2