On Saturday, NYCFC and Domènic Torrent, or Domè as he prefers to be called, travel to Chicago to overcome a winless road streak of 5 games (0-3-2). Luckily, Chicago are a great team to help change the run of poor away form, as City are unbeaten in their last six against the Fire (3-0-3). While Saturday’s match is incredibly important for the Eastern Conference standings, it is also the last chance for Domè to see the boys in action before arguably the most important game of the season next Sunday against our cross-river rivals, the Red Bulls.
David Villa has been ruled out for Saturday's match, so expect Jo Inge Berget to replace him as the number 9 up front, with Medina slotting in on the left. At halftime of last week’s match, Domè made some tactical adjustments that really turned the tides for City. He stressed that fullbacks Ben Sweat and Anton Tinnerholm stay central upon losing possession, allowing Alexander Ring to free roam at the head of the midfield. In the attack, Tinnerholm bombed forward as usual, forcing wingers Medina and Tajouri-Shradi to stay wide, forcing Toronto defenders to make decisions in space. The fluidity of the front four helped take pressure off the midfield, leading to a dominant second half.
City’s home and away form are drastically different; Domè looks to finally bring about a consistency that can change that. Coming off three impressive home performances against solid Eastern conference competition, however, a road win would be the perfect result before the Bronx edition of this years’ Hudson River Derby next Sunday night.
Chicago Fire: LWDDD
Drawing their last three matches and only one point out from a playoff position, Chicago need results soon. The Fire know that NYCFC are a different team away from home with a losing record of 2-3-3, so Saturday is as good a chance as any to pick up the three points at Toyota Park.
Last September, NYCFC traveled to Toyota Park in Chicago and drew 1-1. In the 19’, Maxi Moralez was caught looking for a pass in the back, practically handing Nemanja Nikolic and the Chicago Fire the first goal of the match. Moralez made up for his mistake in the 42’, sending David Villa through on a beautifully weighted chip, cutting open the Chicago defense. Villa calmly rounded the keeper and finished, tying the match at one into halftime. NYCFC clearly was the better of the two teams in the second half, leading in possession and chances, but nothing came to fruition, and the match finished 1-1.
NYCFC: Jo Inge Berget
Many supporters have become increasingly critical of Jo Inge Berget’s performances in recent weeks, and he responded in a big way against Toronto. Scoring two goals and completing five key passes, Berget accomplished what only three other players have in a single match in the last two seasons. With a new manager in town, there is not a better time for the Norwegian forward to break out of his shell. After the match, Berget said “It feels better when I score a couple of goals instead of missing chances.” Hopefully, last week’s match was a turning point for Jo Inge, and his run of good form continues. With David Villa potentially missing the match with his groin injury, Berget will certainly have the chance.
Chicago Fire: Aleksandar Katai
Although Nemanja Nikolic has scored five of his six goals this season at Toyota Park, I believe that Aleksandar Katai is the real threat on Saturday. With three goals and one assist in his last four games, none of which the Fire have lost, Katai is essential to Chicago’s success. The Serbian can line up on the wing, or play centrally, adding to his dynamic style of attack. On loan from Spanish club Deportivo Alavés, Katai is making his mark in MLS.
Goals: David Villa (8), Ismael Tajouri-Shradi (7), Maxi Moralez (6)
Assists: Maxi Moralez (7), Jesus Medina (6), , David Villa (4)
Away Goals: David Villa (3), Ismael Tajouri-Shradi (3)
Goals: Nemanja Nikolic (6), Aleksandar Katai (6), Alan Gordon (4)
Assists: Bastian Schweinsteiger (5), Brandt Bronico (6), 3 Players (3)
Home Goals: Nemanja Nikolic (5)
Follow Nick Fiorino on Twitter at @stretch_fio and The Third Rail at @ThirdRailSC. Interested in learning more about the Third Rail? Visit our website at thirdrail.nyc for merchandise, weekly game previews and more. Interested in joining? Click here.
Watch NYCFC v Chicago on YES Network at 8:00 ET or Listen on WNYE 91.5 FM