Soccer Down Here
VAR: Chicago Fire
by Jarrett Smith
The 2021 season is underway and after a road draw in week one, Atlanta gets to come home and play in front of actual humans for week two. It will be nice to see as everyone hopefully has a good time.
To start the home slate for Atlanta United in 2021 they welcome the Chicago Fire to town who have a very up and down history with Atlanta United. Chicago has been on the wrong side of Atlanta’s first ever home victory, and also laid one of the most one-sided defeats on Atlanta in their short history. But let us not dig up old history when all we care about is what happened the last time.
This is Video Assisted Reminiscing.
2-0 Chicago courtesy of two first half goals from Fabian Herbers and Robert Beric and a few classic moments from Bobby Shuttlesworth at the best (or worst) time.
How we got there
Chicago jumped out early after a bad turnover in the Atlanta midfield and added a second through a perfect ball from Djordje Mihailovic to Beric. Adam Jahn easily could have had two goals himself had Bobby Shuttlesworth not been in his bag that evening.
How MLS was this game
This one was not so much a ‘How MLS was this game’ as much as a ‘How 2020 ATL’ was this game. It had the frustrations you might associate with Atlanta from 2020. Early goals for the other team off careless turnovers in the buildup, lapses for late runners and chances for Atlanta that they either just did not put away or were saved brilliantly.
Not much to say in the way we rate these as the finishes are fine but we are not putting any of these up for Goal of the Week.
The first one here will surely be put on a ‘When playing out of the back goes wrong’ highlight reel. Remedi appears to forget he has someone on his back,steps right into the defender and turns it over. It’s a great run from Herbers and he’s able to sneak it under Guzan’s arm. It’s a great example of why you cannot have those turnovers right there. If you have watched Atlanta, you have been on the good side of those more than a few times. Also that’s a damn-near perfectly timed ball.
The second goal is a gut punch before halftime but good god, let’s just talk about that quick step and turn and chip from Mihailovic to play in Beric who pulls it down perfectly with his toe. The whole buildup is pretty even if the finish is not going on SportsCenter. Beric is just the striker that Chicago needed because of moments like this. Get him a look and he’s going to probably put it away.
What’s the same
If there is a team in MLS that has reason to want a piece of Miami and the league front office after the roster compliance nonsense, it’s Chicago. They missed the playoffs by one point. You can argue Atlanta has a strong argument, considering they played Miami a metric ton in 2020, but Chicago was the team left out in the cold with Miami securing the last spot. Most of that team is still there.
Beric is still there and Raphael Wicky is as well. That’s some stability for a Chicago team that has struggled to put together back to back good years for a while.That stability transferred over with most of the starting XI staying the same. It’s the same team that created plenty of chances in 2020 but was almost cartoonish in their ability to play ‘The back of the net is lava.’
The elephant in - or I suppose out of the room - is the departure of Mihailovic. You know, the guy that created that second goal. Personally, I still have questions about sending him off to Montreal but that’s a question we will probably have to answer as the season goes on.
CJ Sapong is also gone onto the next stage of his walkabout through the league.
Another name you won’t see yet due to knee surgery but might be one to keep an eye on later is Stanislov Ivanov, who may be a bit of a wildcard as he enters the conversation this summer.
What should you expect
Honestly, a fun game. There are times where Chicago operates like an old light bulb where they can burn bright for stretches and then flicker a bit and go cold. Go watch week one for some of that. It looked like they might play New England out of the stadium with two goals in 11 minutes, but then gave up two goals in the next 20 minutes and the game sort of settled into the silt for a 2-2 draw.
Chicago will have those spells where they want to assert their authority on the game, and that makes for a fun battle with Atlanta who would like the ball as well, and since we have not yet unlocked multi-ball something has to give. The game could also be a good chance to rack up highlights for Atlanta’s back line, as they will continue to play a high line and Chicago will not be afraid to skip a line or two and ask Miles Robinson and company to do their jobs well.
I’m not going to make predictions here, as that’s not the purpose of these pieces, but it could be a lot of fun with a Chicago team that can throw punches with almost anyone. The letdowns will be the fun part to watch for.