Chicago Fire vs. Real Salt Lake
2017 MLS Regular Season
Toyota Park – Bridgeview, IL
Saturday, March 11 – 2 pm ET
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After opening the season with draws last weekend, both the Chicago Fire and Real Salt Lake will be gunning for their first wins of the 2017 campaign when they kick off Week 2 at Toyota Park on Saturday.
Widely considered one of the most improved teams of the offseason, Chicago will be looking to build on their gutty 1-1 road draw at Columbus Crew SC. RSL began the season at home, shutting out Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore and high-powered Toronto FC in a scoreless draw at Rio Tinto Stadium. Weather will be a factor on Saturday, with the forecast in Bridgeview calling for a high of 27 degrees and a low of 18.
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The Fire got off to a bit of a rough start in their opener, sitting on the back foot for the majority of the first half at Crew SC and falling behind 1-0 when Ethan Finlay found the back of the net in the 17th minute. But Chicago, perhaps showing some progress from 2016, fought back in the second 45, taking more of the match to Columbus and generating several solid opportunities before Designated Player David Accam equalized in the 73rd.
Picking up a road result against a conference foe was a solid start for Veljko Paunovic’s side, who will likely see midfielder Juninho make his club debut this weekend after missing the opener due to suspension. If they can take all three points against a solid RSL outfit, the hype should continue to build around a Fire team looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Jorge Rodrigo Bava – Michael Harrington, Joao Meira, Johan Kappelhof, Brandon Vincent – Dax McCarty, Juninho – Arturo Alvarez, Michael De Leeuw, David Accam – Nemanja Nikolic
Notes: Both Joao Meira (85) and Dax McCarty (82) had more than 80 touches in Chicago’s draw at Columbus last week. The Fire only had eight instances of a player having more than 80 touches in a game in 2016, and had zero games in which two or more players had 80 touches in the same game last season … In their last 13 home games, the Fire have only lost once (5-1-7). They’ve scored in 15 consecutive home matches.
Real Salt Lake
RSL couldn’t find the back of the net, but they did manage to keep one of the best offenses in the league off the board in their opener, getting a penalty kick save from goalkeeper Nick Rimando and some strong defensive work to draw Toronto FC 0-0 last Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium.
A draw at home is never an ideal result, but RSL weren’t too displeased with their display against TFC. If they can follow up that point with a road win at Chicago, Jeff Cassar’s group will feel just fine about their start to the 2017 campaign.
Projected Starting XI (4-3-3): Nick Rimando – Tony Beltran, David Horst, Chris Schuler, Chris Wingert – Kyle Beckerman, Sunday Stephen, Albert Rusnak – Jordan Allen, Yura Movsisyan, Joao Plata
Notes: RSL have won three straight meetings against the Fire, and have scored at least two goals in all three of those games … Salt Lake’s draw against Toronto extended their winless streak in regular season and playoff matches to nine games (0-5-4). RSL have failed to score in five of those nine games … RSL scored 22 away goals in the 2016 regular season, tied for fifth-most in MLS.
The two sides are all knotted up in their all-time series, both posting a 6-6-7 record in 19 regular season matches against each other. RSL won the lone meeting between the clubs last year, getting goals from Olmes Garcia and Javier Morales – neither of whom are still with the team – to beat Chicago 3-1 at Rio Tinto Stadium on Aug. 6.
CHI-RSL All-Time MLS Meetings (19 meetings since May 28, 2005)
- At Chicago (10 meetings): Tied 3-3-4 (CHI lead 9-8 in goals)
- At Salt Lake (9 meetings): Tied 3-3-3 (CHI lead 13-10 in goals)
Referee: Kevin Stott
Assistant Referees: Kyle Atkins, Peter Balciunas
Fourth Official: Nima Saghafi