Chicago Fire FC vs DC United
Saturday, April 1, 2023
The Opponent: Chicago Fire FC (1-1-2)
Chicago Fire FC: Chris Brady, Arnaud Souquet, Carlos Terán, Rafael Czichos, Jonathan Dean, Maren Haile-Selassie, Chris Mueller, Gastón Giménez, Fabian Herbers, Brian Gutiérrez, Kacper Przybylko
Subs: Spencer Richey, Kendall Burks, Wyatt Omsberg, Alex Monis, Missael Rodríguez, Alonso Aceves, Javier Casas Jr., Mauricio Pineda, Kei Kamara, Xherdan Shaqiri
Captain: Rafael Czichos
DC United - (4-4-2) - Tyler Miller, Ruan, Steve Birnbaum, Derrick Williams, Jacob Greene, Victor Pálsson, Mateusz Klich, Chris Durkin, Ted Ku-DiPietro, Christian Benteke, Taxi Fuentas
Subs: Alex Bono, Pedro Santos, Kristen Fletcher, Russell Canouse, Jackson Hopkins, Nigel Robertha, Yamil Asad, Donovan Pines, Hayden Sargis,
Captain: Steve Birnbaum
Chicago Fire FC: Ezra Hendrickson - Head Coach Ezra Hendrickson is now in his second year managing Chicago. In his first season with the Fire, Hendrickson led them to 39 points (10-15-9), which ranks as the second-most points for a first year CFFC head coach in the last 12 seasons. This second season has started slowly, but Chicago has picked up two draws and beat Inter Miami for their first win of the season last weekend, winning 3-2. Chicago are now 20th in the standings with 5 points. A former assistant coach to Sigi Schmid, Hendrickson wants to build his team on a rock solid defense. Expect the team to play conservatively and to counter when they turn the ball over.
DC United: Wayne Rooney - After a week away due to illness, Wayne Rooney will be on the touch line, trying to get the most out of his team, whose confidence has to be waning. For the first time this season he will have all three of his designated players available for the start. It will be interesting to see if this can help the team reduce the stress on the defense.
Keys to the Match:
Can DC United’s Defense step up? Chicago’s 2022 campaign was defined by an inability to find the back of the net, as the Fire scored just 39 goals, the second-lowest total in all of MLS. This has not been an issue the last two weeks. The Fire have been on fire, scoring 3 goals in each match, earning a tie and a win. Goals last week by Chris Mueller in the 30th minute and Carlos Terán in the 38th minute giving them a 0-2 lead. A Kei Kamara goal in stoppage time allowed Chicago to claim their first victory of the season. This followed a week where the Fire put 3 on Cincinnati FC. With scoring now a real threat from Chicago, the Black and Red are really going to have to tighten their defenses. Disruption due to injuries, and lack of playing time together have kept the defense from gaining any semblance of cohesion. Yet the real issue is all mental, DC United players making unforced errors and mistakes due to lack of concentration. If the players can stay focused, the team has played well enough to win.
Can DC United get a result that matches their play? DC United are struggling to win at the moment despite showing many signs of improvement over last season. They won the first match 3-2, but have since lost 3 and drew 1 in the other 4 matches. Their last match ended in a 2-1 defeat against the New England Revolution, despite being the better side. DC United had more possession (51%), more shots (14) and shots on target (7), and more corner kicks (8) in the match, and overall just looked more quality for most of the game. DC United were first to score in the 45th minute through a Christian Benteke goal. But in the second half they were not able to add to their lead. This allowed the visitors to get back into the game and take the lead with 2 goals in the 63rd and 88th minute to consign DC to defeat.
It’s obvious that MLS pundits aren’t really watching DC by their comments, but are just looking at the results. You can’t blame them, the Black and Red are going to need to earn the respect of the pundits and people around the league.
What role does Shaqiri play? Xherdan Shaqiri has not been the difference maker that the Chicago front office was looking for, and now he’s been off, injured. The expectation is he will be available for the game against DC; whether this is as a starter or a super-sub is the question. Brian Gutiérrez has been playing lights out, and it would be hard to see him being sent to the bench. Most likely Gutiérrez will get the start, and Shaqiri will come in to help the Fire get the result.
Will 3 Designated Players make a difference? For the first time ever DC United will start a match with 3 DPs. This should give DC United a big boost. On paper the three players should complement each other quite well. Christian Benteke has proven this season he ca score. Taxi Fuentas proved it last season. Mateusz Klich has shown he can get the ball and bring it up the field. The three should be able to help each other get more opportunities to score, and be threatening in the offense. This should also improve players like Durkin and Ted Ku-Dipietro, as teams focus on the DPs.
Things to Watch:
Offense - DC United will have DP forward Taxi Fountas back after making his 2023 debut last weekend as a sub for the final 22-minutes of the match. The Greek forward brought energy and attack, getting a number of shots off, including 2 on goal. He should give the Black-and-Red a one-two punch alongside leading scorer Christian Benteke. While Chicago has been scoring, they have also been giving up scores, surrendering 2 goals to Inter Miami, and 3 goals to Cincinnati FC.
The introduction of Fuantas will allow Ted Ku-DiPietro to slide out wide, most likely on the left, though he and Mateusz Klich will overlap and switch positions, looking to pull defenders and find space. With Durkin on the right, Ted KDP on the left, DC has two strong passers, with the ability to give Benteke great looks on goal.
Defense - The Black and Red are bottom of the league in goals allowed. They have given up multiple goals in 4 of their games, and have failed to keep a clean sheet in any match. The Fullbacks will again be depleted, and newly acquired Ruan hasn’t yet shown anything in the defensive side of the game. Last week against the Revolution, he was pushed forward as a Winger, and Chris Durkin was dropped back into the Fullback position. Pedro Santos might be back but is coming off a procedure on his knee, and Mo Jeahze is out for another week, so Jacob Greene should get his second MLS start. He will have his hands full with Chris Mueller, but has shown well on the defensive side of the ball.
Expect Steve Birnbaum and Derrick Williams to start at Center-Back, and to play a mid level line. Mueller and Brian Gutiérrez have good pace, and want to get behind the defense. Gutiérrez especially will go at the defense. There’s a good chance Victor Pálsson, off of two strong international matches and strong play in the second half against NYCFC, will get the start, and play a bit deeper to cover the back line.
By the Numbers:
Offensively, DC United ranks 7th in MLS with 7 goals. Defensively DC United ranks 28th with 10 goals allowed.
The Black and Red rank 2nd in MLS with 1.50 Expected Assists per match. Unfortunately DC are tied for 17th in MLS 1.12 Expected Goals per game.
Last week, DC United outshot the New England Revolution 14 to 13.
Christian Benteke leads the Black and Red with 3 goals. He has put 13 shots on goal, averaging 2.6 per game.
Mateusz Klich has 1 goal and 2 assists.
Offensively, Chicago is tied with DC at 7th in MLS with 7 goals, though in one less game. Defensively, Chicago has conceded 7 goals to rank 17th in the league.
Chris Mueller has been a top performer for the Fire, scoring 2 goals (9th in league) and providing 1 assist.
Brian Gutierrez has 2 assists (on 6 chances created, 1.5 per game).
Kacper Przybylko has 1 goal and 1 assist.
Richard - 1 - 1 Both teams have shown the ability to score and to be vulnerable to being scored ont.
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Written by: RJ Rolsen