In the final meeting between the two sides in Bridgeview, FC Dallas travels to face off against the Chicago Fire in the battle for the Brimstone Cup.
Date: Saturday, September 14th
Time: 2:30 PM CST
Location: SeatGeek Stadium, Bridgeview, Illinois
How to Watch: Univision, Twitter
This will be the only matchup between Chicago and Dallas this season, unless the two meet in an incredibly unlikely MLS Cup matchup., and will determine who takes home the Brimstone Cup. With the Fire moving back to Soldier Field following the 2019 season, this will be the final time Dallas plays at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview. Since the Fire moved into the Eastern Conference, the rivalry between Dallas and Chicago that burned so hot in the early years of MLS has cooled off with the teams only playing each other one time per year. However, the first supporter-created trophy in MLS is still contested every year in the single matchup between the teams.
Both teams enter the game fighting for a playoff spot. Dallas enters the game in 7th place in the Western Conference, hanging on to that spot following Colorado’s controversial late penalty winner against the Galaxy in their mid-week matchup. Dallas have 43 points through a 12-7-10 record. All the Western Conference teams, except Portland who still have a game in hand, have now played 29 games, and Dallas sits only 3 points behind 2nd place Real Salt Lake and only 1 point against the 8th place LA Galaxy going into the weekend. Dallas actually have the second-best goal differential in the conference, scoring 47 and conceding 38. At this point, every single game is massively important in the run-in to the playoffs.
Chicago’s playoff situation is a bit more desperate. They enter the weekend in 10th in the Eastern Conference with an 8-10-12 record. They are 5 points behind 7th placed New England, who also have a game in hand on the Fire. The Fire have had a strange season, no team in MLS has more draws and, although they sit near the bottom of the conference, they actually have a +1 goal differential, the same as DC United all the way up in 5th. If the Fire want to make the playoffs, this Brimstone Cup matchup is essentially a must-win.
This lineup is mostly unchanged from the Fire’s 1-1 draw against Columbus on August 31st. Like Dallas, Chicago has not played over the international break. The lone change from last time out here would be Michael Azira coming into midfield and replacing Brandt Bronico. Chicago will likely sit in and allow Dallas to possess the ball and try to spring counters with their talented attacking pieces and Azira is a more experienced and defensive-minded midfielder compared to Bronico. The additions of Calvo and Bornstein have helped stabilize a backline that shipped a lot of goals in the first half of the season and has helped Chicago win 3 out of their last 6 games. CJ Sapong didn’t make the 18 against Columbus but make factor off the bench.
There will be at least one forced change for FC Dallas from their starting lineup last time out against FC Cincinnati with Bryan Acosta suspended for yellow card accumulation. Edwin Cerrillo replaces him at the 6 while Ferreira and Servania, who have been in excellent form, retain their spots. With FC Dallas’ recent scoring flurry, the front three remains unchanged, meaning Paxton Pomykal starts from the bench once again. The other change from last time out is Bressan replacing Reggie Cannon at right back. Cannon played a lot of minutes on international duty, going the full 90 against Mexico and playing around 70 minutes earlier in the week against Uruguay. Bressan comes in to give Cannon a bit of rest prior to an important mid-week matchup against Seattle.
Keys to the Match
After a two week lay off without playing an MLS game on both sides, both teams will be looking to start the game strongly and make an instant impact. As the away team, Dallas must start with a higher intensity than Chicago and take control of the game early on. Dallas has largely done a good job of this, particularly in recent matchups, and that trend needs to continue. Dallas has struggled all season coming back from deficits and allowing the Fire to gain an early advantage and having to play from behind could spell doom in a massive game for Dallas.
Replicate Bryan Acosta’s Production
Acosta’s play from the defensive midfield spot has been crucial in Dallas’ recent strong run of form. However Luchi Gonzalez chooses to replace Acosta, whether it is a straight swap to Edwin Cerrillo, dropping Brandon Servania back or modifying the formation, the replacement needs to be able to replicate what Acosta has done from the position: win balls back and make simple, clean, accurate passes to keep things moving offensively. Chicago are a team with talented attackers in Nico Gaitan, Nemaja Nikolic, Aleksandar Katai and Przemysław Frankowski and Acosta’s replacement will be tasked with helping the Dallas backline keep these players in check. Letting them loose can lead to disaster defensively, as Atlanta United can attest to.
Feed the Kobra
Zdenek Ondrasek has finally started living up to his nickname with 4 goals in the last 3 games. Dallas has done a great job of getting more pressure on the opponent’s box and getting balls into the box for Kobra to feed on. They must continue doing so against the Fire. Throughout the season, Dallas has struggled to get service into their number 9, whether it is has been Dom Badji or Jesus Ferreira, but that trend has changed with Ondrasek’s insertion into the starting lineup. Ondrasek’s positioning, almost always on the backline and moving amongst the center backs, has opened up space for the likes of Barrios, Ferreira, and Servania and has allowed the Czech striker to wreak some havoc in the opponent’s box. This trend needs to continue for Dallas to continue their hot scoring run.
Will FC Dallas keep their hot streak alive and take the Brimstone Cup back home with them to Dallas? Who will replace the suspended Bryan Acosta in the lineup? Will Paxton Pomykal return to the starting lineup or remain on the bench? Sound off in the comments below!
Featured Image: FC Dallas