During a busy may schedule, the Chicago Fire put together a landmark four game winning streak. The Fire’s 4-0-1 record in May was the second best month-long run the Fire have ever put together. The ongoing run of form rates second only to the 5-0-0 recorded in June of 1998, the Fire’s inaugural and MLS cup winning season. The Men In Red begin a travel heavy June this weekend with a trip to the wetlands of Orlando City Stadium. Sunday marks the first of two meetings in three weeks against the Lions.
Chicago Fire return to action after welcome holiday break
After playing and winning four games in under two weeks time, the Men In Red’s four day break “couldn’t have come at a better time” according to Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez. The extended holiday break gave the players an opportunity to “reload” and relax.
Reloading ?☀️ pic.twitter.com/dgaUb6SFHq
— Nikolic Nemanja (@niko_nemanja) May 27, 2017
Dax McCarty however had a shorter layoff as he continues to be included in Bruce Arena’s United States national team plans. The Florida born midfielder has played every minute of every Fire game so far this season but will miss at least two games to play in the upcoming world cup qualifiers. McCarty’s rollercoaster year continues its upward trajectory with him in career best form and a regular national team call-up. A truly remarkable situation when considering that just months ago the player had mulled over taking a hiatus from soccer following his shock trade to Chicago in January.
— Dax McCarty (@DaxMcCarty11) May 28, 2017
McCarty’s call-up opens the door for Juninho
With the Men in Red’s captain absent for the first time, now is the time for Juninho to slide in next to Bastian Schweinsteiger. The Brazilian midfielder has been limited by ankle issues lately but Nelson Rodriguez confirmed Tuesday night that he’s fully fit again. Juninho will likely re-enter the squad playing in his more natural position as a defensive midfielder. Juninho can build a partnership with the German as Dax had done during the winning in May. Chicago’s play improved greatly when Michael de Leeuw was placed in the advanced midfielder role instead of fielding all three of the Fire’s star defensive midfielders at once. While de Leeuw has had a few comical misses in front of goal, his move in front of McCarty and Schweinsteiger has added great balance to the side.
The moment is right for Juninho to make his mark in a Chicago Fire shirt. The multiple MLS Cup champion has had a somewhat sputtering start to the season. He has started just seven games and come on as a substitute twice in thirteen games so far. The on-loan midfielder missed two games in March through suspension and missed more time in May with injuries. Starting in a central pairing with Schweinsteiger on Sunday should bring out the best in the Brazilian. Fair to say that playing with the world cup champion has improved the play of all the Fire players that have gotten on the field.
How high can the hot Fire fly?
The Men in Red have had a memorable season on and off the field already in 2017. The Fire’s current run of form is amongst their best ever and now it must be asked: just how far and good can this Fire team get? Earning another road win against a dangerous Orlando City team Sunday would raise the high-water mark for results and expectations. If the Men In Red can replicate their stifling defensive performances seen in D.C. and most recently against Dallas, they may well earn another result away from Bridgeview. Head coach Veljko Paunovic and general manager Nelson Rodriguez have a far different ‘management of expectations’ job on their hands now. ‘Just reaching the playoffs’ now seems a bare minimum goal of what this new Fire team can do.