The Chicago Fire stormed through May and June without a loss in MLS play, but things have not gone as well lately.
As a result of losing three of the last four games, the Fire have dropped to third in the Eastern Conference and the chasing back isn’t far behind. That’s why general manager Nelson Rodriguez emphasized the importance of Wednesday’s game in Montreal, even with league-leading Toronto visiting Toyota Park on Saturday.
“We can’t look at Toronto yet,” Rodriguez said. “We have to look at Montreal. We just have to. I have to harp on that. A victory in Montreal makes the Toronto game all that more important on a lot of levels.”
The Fire (12-6-5, 41 points) face an Impact (8-8-6, 30 points) team that has won two in a row. The game will be live on CSN with coverage beginning at 6 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live.
After losing at Columbus a few days ago, the Fire had a short turnaround. The busy week, with Toronto still looming on Saturday, comes at a time when the Fire are trying to look like that team from May and June again.
“It’s been an interesting few weeks since the (Gold Cup) break,” Rodriguez said. “Admittedly, we have not regained the form that we took into the break and it’s been a whole new set of tests for us. Certain tests, like just playing quality opponents on the road, such as New York City and Sporting Kansas City, in the two immediate games after the break. Tests that I wouldn’t say we failed, but certainly we didn’t pass and showed that there’s still room for improvement on our end.”
Left back Brandon Vincent will miss a fifth straight game due to a quad injury. Joao Meira is also listed as questionable with a calf injury.
For Montreal, Ignacio Piatti has already established himself as one of the best players in the league. This season he has 10 goals and four assists, but the addition of Blerim Dzemaili has given the Impact another dangerous weapon in the attack. The Swiss international has six goals and five assists in 12 games.
Montreal has suffered three losses at home, but the Fire have lost three straight on the road. The Fire’s recent road struggles was another topic Rodriguez addressed at a media roundtable on Tuesday.
“I think they demonstrate something deeper, which is collective mentality and again I think, look we need to win some games on the road to change that and to improve upon that,” Rodriguez said. “I think it comes from time together, being in the fox hole, falling behind and winning a game on the road, pitching a shutout on the road if I could borrow a baseball phrase. I think we still view being on the road as being on the road as opposed to viewing it as an opportunity to play our way as we want, when we want, where we want, how we want, and so there needs to be some more collective mentality that goes into that. That’s an area that we have to improve upon, and if we don’t, and if we make the playoffs, it will be a short stay.”
Chicago Fire at Montreal Impact
Where: Stade Saputo, Montreal
When: Coverage begins at 6 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live
Records: Fire (12-6-5, 41 points), Impact (8-8-6, 30 points)