From being at the end of the tour 3-1 to Charlotte FC to losing 4 to Colorado, it’s been a pretty extreme week for Atlanta United but it’s not over yet. The Five Stripes end their three-match streak in seven days with a sick visit Chicago fire Saturday night.
Since we last saw Chicago in late April, a lot has happened at the fire camp (and not much of it was good). Head coach Ezra Hendrickson lost his job the following week after a 3-0 loss to Nashville SC and Franck Klopas came on for a third period of absence. Most agreed, however, that Hendrickson was far from the cause of Chicago’s problems, and the results since then have supported that claim. Chicago lost 2-1 to Charlotte on Wednesday, although they recorded back-to-back victories over Saint Louis and advanced to the round of 16 of the Open Cup. It’s coming up on May 24, so there could be a team rotation this weekend. However, in MLS, Chicago dropped to 13th with 14 points and the 10th best offense and 4th worst defense in the East. In short, Chicago is what its record says; a team with too many holes to aspire to anything better than one of the lower playoff spots.
Of course, that doesn’t mean Atlanta should expect an easy win on Saturday. Chicago defeated the Five Stripes in a rematch at Benz and will have what the history books say is a major home advantage this weekend. Atlanta hasn’t won in Illinois since 2018, picking up one draw and three losses in their last four appearances with a 1-10 aggregate. Atlanta’s high-scoring win over Colorado is a positive sign that they can still beat underperforming home teams and secure fourth place for another week, but nothing more for now, especially if the Five Stripes’ road woes continue. After Chicago, Atlanta also has a trip to Orlando on the agenda, followed by two tough home games against New England and Washington. Starting a winning streak in Chicago would be a great way to prepare for a difficult part of the season and show that it wasn’t as bad as the past three weeks had suggested, but we’ve already been tricked by the false dawn.
Atlanta leads the all-time series against Chicago 7W-1D-5L, including a 2-1 win with an own goal in added time on April 22.
Expected initial XI
Prediction: Chicago Fire 0-2 Atlanta United
Atlanta will take 2 wins out of two and amass more unhappiness on Fire with a Giorgos Giakoumakis brace to secure their way to three points.