Atlanta United vs Chicago Fire preview: How to watch, kick-off time, team news, predicted lineups, and ones to watch
Photo by Perry McIntyre / ISI Photos via Getty Images

Two struggling Eastern Conference teams face off on Saturday afternoon as Atlanta United hosts the Chicago Fire at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Atlanta have been down bad, losing three out of their last four MLS games, with the other contest ending in a 0-0 draw at home to FC Cincinnati. Their most recent loss came away to CF Montréal, where they gave up a goal early and a goal late to ensure they were beaten once again. 

Things went from bad to worse for Chicago this past weekend. At home against the New York Red Bulls, they went up 1-0 in the opening stages thanks to a Xherdan Shaqiri penalty kick. After a weather delay halted proceedings for a while, the Fire went flat. They gave up an equalizer, and then decided to repeatedly shoot themselves in the foot. Jhon Durán was sent off, then Rafael Czichos was sent off, then Miguel Navarro gave away a penalty. The spot-kick was converted, and Chicago lost their first home game of the season as a result.

Only a single point separates these two sides going into this contest, which could set the stage for a fun afternoon.

Team news

Atlanta is in the midst of an injury crisis, which explains why they’ve been so poor as of late. The likes of Machop Chol, Ozzie Alonso, Josef Martínez, Dylan Castanheira, and Brad Guzan are all definitely out, while Dom Dwyer, Santiago Sosa, Caleb Wiley, and George Campbell are doubts.

Things aren’t much better for Chicago. Spencer Richey, Gastón Giménez, and Alex Monis are all out through injury, while Brian Gutiérrez, Fabian Herbers, Kacper Przybyłko, Carlos Terán, and Jairo Torres are listed as questionable. Then there’s Rafael Czichos and Jhon Durán, who are both suspended for the contest.

Predicted lineups

Atlanta United: Shuttleworth, Lennon, Franco, Robinson, Gutman, Araujo, Ibarra, Rossetto, Almada, Cisnero, Moreno

Chicago Fire: Slonina, Sekulić, Omsberg, Burks, M. Navarro, Pineda, F. Navarro, Ivanov, Shaqiri, Mueller, Offor

Ones to watch

Thiago Almada
Times are rough for Atlanta and Thiago Almada at the moment.

After nailing the signings of Miguel Almirón and Josef Martínez, the club thought that they had cracked the MLS code. They were bringing in top-tier players, they had won MLS Cup, and even when they ultimately had to sell Almirón they secured a massive transfer fee for him.

However, it’s not been all sunshine and rainbows since then. They’ve missed on their recent big name acquisitions, most famously Ezequiel Barco and Pity Martínez. That, plus the injury issues of the aforementioned Martínez, has led to the team failing to hit the same heights of their past.

There was hope that Almada was going to be the man to restore them to that glory. He was brought in for a good chunk of money, and the fee was understandable since he was such a hyped up prospect. That’s not really happened though.

After scoring a screamer in his second appearance, the Argentine has gone quiet, failing to register a single goal contribution since. He’s not necessarily playing terribly, and his impact can go beyond the box score, but it’s still disappointing to see this lack of output considering how much the team needs him, especially with Martínez out injured once again.

There’s still plenty of time for Almada to turn things around, and that could start with a big performance here.

Chris Mueller
Well, this entire section was previously devoted to Jairo Torres, Chicago’s newest Designated Player who was supposed to debut this weekend. However, he’s now dealing with an injury, so he probably won’t feature.

Chris Mueller, come on down, you’re the next contestant on the Chicago Fire soccer show.

Mueller has a bit in common with Torres. Both are recent arrivals to the club, and both will be under pressure to help turn things around going forward. It doesn’t seem like things can get any worse, to be fair, as the Fire have only scored six goals from their opening nine games.

There is one big difference between them, and that is that Mueller will feature this weekend. He won’t have much time to train with his new teammates, as his first day of practice was on Thursday. He’s match fit, though, and that’s good enough at the moment.

The American may not be as exciting of a signing, but he’s still a quality player that could bring a lot to the table. Dynamic on the ball, he’s got an excellent build that allows him to be both fast and strong. Then, in the final third, he’s able to either finish off chances himself or pick out a teammate with a killer ball. 22 goals and 20 assists in 126 appearances is a solid return, and Chicago will hope that he can add to that this weekend.

Not only would Mueller love to do so on his Fire debut, but it would be a nice way to repay his old Orlando supporters by scoring on their bitter rivals Atlanta. 

Last time out

It’s been less than a year since these two sides last faced off, but it feels like it’s been a lot longer.

Chicago ran riot in what proved to be a dream night at Soldier Field, ultimately winning 3-0.

After a relatively even opening, the Fire broke the deadlock just past the half-hour mark. Some good play from Álvaro Medrán started the move, and he picked out Ignacio Aliseda in space on the edge of the area. His first touch was good, and his shot took a major deflection before going in off the underside of the bar.

If that goal was a bit lucky, his second certainly wasn't. Miguel Navarro flew up the field to win the ball in a dangerous area, getting it to Aliseda as a result. He then did the rest, settling himself before curling a strike into the corner past a helpless Brad Guzan.

Chicago sealed the result in style with 30 minutes to go following a lethal counter attack. The final pass from Aliseda played Przemysław Frankowski into space, and he finished things off by slotting the ball past the goalkeeper.

It was a performance that gave Fire fans hope again, and even though the team never really capitalized on the big win, it was still a fun night for those in attendance.

 

How to watch

The match kicks off at 6:00 p.m. EDT, and it will air live on Bally Sports South for fans in Atlanta and on WGN TV and chicagofirefc.com for fans in Chicago. Anyone else in the United States will be able to watch the action unfold on ESPN+.

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