Chicago are unbeaten in three straight following an impressive 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake this past weekend, while the Pigeons are back in the playoff conversation after a thumping 6-0 triumph versus DC United.
With their playoff hopes hanging in the balance for several weeks now, Ronny Deila saw his side respond in a big way this weekend, taking it to the Black-and-Red from the opening whistle and showing no mercy in front of their home crowd.
Following a six-game winless run, the Norwegian manager admitted that his team had lost their confidence as they failed to capitalise on their opportunities, going scoreless in four consecutive fixtures before last week.
This is a team that loves to attack, and they let out all of that frustration on DC United, moving into fifth place as a result with three games remaining.
After a performance like that, firing 15 shots on target and collecting only their second clean sheet in their last 12 fixtures, they have to be feeling pretty good about themselves down the stretch of the regular season.
In the game of football, some minor tactical adjustments can make all the difference, and Deila deserves a lot of credit for how he changed things up over the weekend, employing a back four, moving James Sands into the unfamiliar role of right-back, a move which enabled Malte Amundsen plenty of freedom down the left to join the attack, contributing two assists on the night.
They may be back in a playoff position for the moment, but one false step and they could be right back outside of the top seven, currently just a single point above that postseason line in the Eastern Conference.
With nothing but pride to play for down the stretch, the Fire have come to life winning back-to-back affairs and putting a dent in the playoff hopes of Claret and Cobalt on Saturday.
Their best players have started to play to their capabilities, albeit a little too late as they are already eliminated from postseason contention.
Interim boss Frank Klopas is making a solid case as to why he deserves to be the full-time manager next season, and he and his side have an opportunity to extend their winning streak to three games in midweek, which would be their longest such streak since the 2017 campaign when they won four in a row.
Since Raphael Wicky's dismissal, this team have thrived under a 4-3-3 formation over the past two games, with a more forward-thinking approach and a lot of fluidity in their movement and passing.
They close out the regular season with a pair of road fixtures, beginning in the Bronx, a place where they have never won in seven matches against the Boys in Blue, although they have been able to go unbeaten in their previous two road games this year, including a 2-2 draw with the New England Revolution.
Sean Johnson collected his first clean sheet for the Pigeons since October 3rd against Nashville, stopping all three shots that he faced versus DC United.
Thiago Andrade got the ball rolling for New York, scoring the opening goal on Saturday in the first minute, his first of the campaign, Valentin Castellanos notched a brace as he now has 15 goals on the year, Alexander Callens found the back of the net for the first time, Maxi Moralez picked up his third strike and Jesus Medina tallied his ninth of the season.
Goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina made five saves to collect another clean sheet, Gaston Gimenez made his first start since October 3rd, Boris Sekulic was in the starting 11 for the first time since September 22nd and Miguel Navarro collected his second assist of the season.
New York City FC possible starting lineup:
Johnson; Sands, Chanot, Gray, Amundsen; Morales, Zelalem; Andrade, Moralez, Medina; Castellanos
Chicago Fire possible starting lineup:
Slonina; Espinoza, Pineda, Bornstein, M. Navarro; F. Navarro, Gutierrez, Medran; Omsberg, Beric, Aliseda
We say: New York City FC 2-2 Chicago Fire
The Fire have nothing to lose, and as a result, we have seen them play up to their potential as they are growing in confidence, and their most dangerous players have shown that they can make a difference.
New York are riding high after a dominating performance against a talented DC United side, but a season does not come down to one game, so we expect to see a bit of a let-down from them in this one, but with a quality striker like Castellanos they should be able to rescue a point.
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