Checking out the top sportsbook sites (see our online sportsbook reviews here) tells us that bettors are wary about backing Chicago Fire at short odds. Despite their good recent form and home advantage, the Fire are rated as +102 chances for this game, with the draw at +255 and an Atlanta win available at odds between +205 and +250.
With only 17 points from their first 19 games, Chicago Fire found themselves outside of the playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. A key feature of their difficult start was their struggle to find any stretches of consistency, with a ten-game winless streak being a particularly testing period for the team.
Their unlikely revival began with a vital 2-0 victory over Toronto earlier this month, secured thanks to two goals by Jhon Duran. This kept their playoff hopes alive and after a narrow 1-0 home win over struggling Seattle, the Illinois team traveled to Vancouver last time out. An early goal from Xherdan Shaqiri was matched by a strike from Lucas Cavallini but with fifteen minutes to go, Rafael Czichos gave Chicago the lead and Chris Mueller made it three for the visitors in the closing second.
Ezra Hendrickson’s team will now try to make it four consecutive league victories for the first time in more than five years when they take on Atlanta. Victory in this game will give them the chance to overtake Charlotte FC and FC Cincinnati and move into the playoff places.
This has been a season of struggle for Atlanta so far, and their inability to show any consistency in their performances has cost them dearly. They earned 21 points from their first 15 games, but have since declined further, with only one win in their last seven.
That solitary success, against Real Salt Lake, was a narrow 2-1 victory, delivered thanks to two goals from Ronaldo Cisneros. They then matched Orlando City at home, with a late goal from Juan Sanchez Purata. But any hope that these results might signal a revival for Gonzalo Pineda’s team were ended when they traveled to LA Galaxy last time and lost 2-0.
Gonzalo Pineda’s team are now four points short of the playoffs and involved in a fierce battle with four other teams, including Chicago. With some tough games to come in August, they desperately need to find some form or they risk being left behind by their rivals.
Given their good recent form, it would not be a surprise to see Chicago Fire start this game with an unchanged line-up, with Jhon Duran leading a confident attacking unit. Xherdan Shaqiri will once again be a danger in the final third after recording his fourth goal of the MLS season last time, and wide player Chris Mueller, who added to his goal tally against Vancouver, is another likely starter.
Mauricio Pineda and Federico Navarro will once again be partnered at the heart of midfield with Carlos Teran and Rafael Czichos lining up in the middle of the defense.
The team news for Atlanta is not encouraging as goalkeeper Brad Guzan is still out injured, along with Miles Robinson, Andrew Gutman and Brooks Lennon, which significantly weakens the team’s defensive options. There are fewer problems in attack, where Ronaldo Cisneros is likely to continue and club record scorer Josef Martinez could be in line for a starting spot here.
Atlanta’s rash of defensive injuries presents a dilemma for head coach Pineda. They desperately need to find some points and that means adopting a more proactive approach. But if they push too hard, they risk exposing their weakened back line.
Another problem for Atlanta is their abysmal away form. The Five Stripes have picked up five points from ten games on the road this season, which puts huge pressure on them to perform at home. So a win in Chicago would be a huge boost for the visitors.
In recent seasons a game against Chicago has been regarded as an easy three-point opportunity. Unfortunately for Atlanta, they are coming up against a Fire squad that is full of confidence after a rare winning run. Chicago are also looking particularly good on their home turf. They’ve won four of their last five games at Soldier Field, conceding only three goals in that run, and that defensive solidity means Atlanta won’t get any easy opportunities on Saturday.
With both teams pushing for points as they chase the playoffs, this could turn into an entertaining game, but Atlanta look vulnerable and at these odds, Chicago are the obvious match betting pick.