The Chicago Fire are currently licking their wounds like the rebels at the end of The Empire Strikes Back and are hoping Saturday’s game against Minnesota will be the Fire’s version of Return of the Jedi.
The Fire have lost three straight and five of six, but a look at the standings show that a home game against Minnesota may more closely resemble a bunch of hapless stormtroopers than a duel with Darth Vader. The Loons (6-14-4, 22 points) have the fewest points in the league, are winless on the road and have allowed the most goals in the league (51).
Despite facing a bottom-dwelling opponent, the Fire are going to trust their Jedi training and avoid overlooking Saturday’s game.
“MLS is built on parity so you cannot take any team lightly,” goalkeeper Matt Lampson said. “We know they’re a good team. They went to Seattle this past weekend and gave them a hell of a game. We’re going to come in ready for a fight and we just got to play the way we have been playing, the way that we know we can play and it’s going to be really important for us to get three points.”
The game will be live on CSN+ with coverage beginning at 7 p.m. It is Star Wars Night at Toyota Park, thus all the references in this preview.
A disturbance in the Force has hit the Fire's defense in the form of injuries lately. Those injuries have played a role in the Fire’s recent slide with three regular starting defenders going down. Brandon Vincent (quad) and Joao Meira (calf) are out yet again, but Matt Polster (left knee) was training with the rest of the team this week and is listed as questionable. Vincent is back in training, but was limited and worked out on the side.
David Accam, the Fire player most likely to make the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs, is also listed as questionable with a hip injury. He had the same injury entering the Toronto game last weekend and played all 90 minutes.
Minnesota’s leading goal-scorer, Christian Ramirez, has missed the last two games. He sat out training on Thursday, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and is day-to-day. Another talented Force wielder, Ethan Finlay, scored on his debut for the Loons after being traded from Columbus. His goal gave Minnesota an early lead at the Western Conference leaders, but Minnesota ultimately succumbed to the Dark Side when Clint Dempsey drew and converted a penalty kick in the 94th minute.
“We have a chance to make three points at home against Minnesota and we have to,” Fire midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger said. “We will not make the mistake against Minnesota. They also played in Seattle a very good game away so we will give everything to get three points at home.”
The Fire (12-8-5, 41 points) are in third place heading into this weekend’s action and the schedule presents a good opportunity for the Fire to make ground in the standings. Not only are the Fire hosting last-place Minnesota, but the two New York teams face off Friday night. New York City FC is five points ahead of the Fire for second place while the Red Bulls are three points behind the Fire. A win against the Loons means the Fire will gain ground on at least one of those teams.
Midfielder Dax McCarty’s message heading the Minnesota game was more along the lines of “Do or do not, there is no try.” He does not expect an easy game.
“It’s actually the worst time to play Minnesota,” McCarty said. “We’re not playing well and they’re going to come in here with even more confidence that they can get a result.
“There are no easy games in this league, I can promise you that. Just because they’re where they are in the standings, they have talent and they’re well-coached. They have a lot of guys that can hurt you.”
Chicago Fire vs. Minnesota United
Where: Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Ill.
When: Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live
Records: Fire (12-8-5, 41 points), Minnesota (6-14-4, 22 points)