Fire-Atlanta United Preview
While Atlanta United FC has ended its minor slump, the Chicago Fire are still searching for ways to halt their lengthy winless road stretch.
Atlanta looks to build on a much-needed mid-week triumph while trying for a fifth straight home win on Saturday night against the Fire, who have gone more than a year without a road victory.
The reigning MLS champs were the hottest team in the league while winning five straight games without conceding a goal from April 27-May 15. However, Atlanta (7-5-2) followed that record-setting run with back-to-back road defeats against the New York Red Bulls and Real Salt Lake.
United, though, had little trouble ending its rot with a 3-0 home victory over Minnesota United FC on Wednesday night. Franco Escobar opened the scoring in the 23rd minute, but the decision was slightly in doubt until Josef Martinez recorded his brace over a three-minute span during second-half stoppage time.
"All that mattered after 90 minutes was three points," Atlanta keeper Brad Guzan told Fox Sports South. "After the last two results, we knew that (Wednesday) and then Saturday are two big games for us.
"To be back home at Mercedes-Benz (Stadium), in front of these fantastic fans, we (need) six points and (we've) started off well."
Atlanta has outscored its opponents 7-0 during a four-game home winning streak. Martinez, who has three of his eight league goals over the last two matches, snapped his three-game home goal drought at home Wednesday. He's posted three goals with an assist while United's gone 3-1-0 against Chicago - with wins coming in both previous meetings at Atlanta.
The Fire (4-5-6) enter the weekend just over the playoff line in the Eastern Conference thanks to a second straight draw - 3-3 at East-leading D.C. United on Wednesday. Goals by C.J. Sapong and Djordje Mihailovic over a two-minute span early in the first half gave Chicago a 2-0 lead, but that was gone by the 61st and the Fire trailed 3-2 until Francisco Calvo's header tied things in the second minute of stoppage time.
"I think if we can just apply those first 35-40 minutes and make that into 90 minutes against Atlanta, we'll have no problem, but we need to do that and apply it," Chicago midfielder Brandt Bronico told the MLS official website.
While grateful to get something out of that match, the Fire remain frustrated that it wasn't more and that they are mired in an 0-13-6 road rut that dates to a 2-1 victory at Orlando City on May 26, 2018.
"It's disappointing that we didn't come out with three points," Chicago forward Fabian Herbers said. "We know what we are capable of and we showed it."
Sapong has two of his team-leading six goals over the last two matches.
Updated May 30, 2019