Chicago Fire FC vs. CF Montreal Prediction, Preview and Odds - 5/29/21
Chicago Fire FC plays their seventh game of the 2021 MLS season on Tuesday afternoon when they play host to CF Montreal, playing their eighth game of the season, from historic Soldier Field in Chicago. These two teams only met once last season, drawing 2-2, and then split their two 2019 games. For Chicago, they’ve dropped four of their last four games with the lone win coming last week at home against Miami, which helped them move temporarily out of the Eastern Conference basement. For Montreal, they’ve lost two in a row including a stunner against perennial bottom dweller Cincinnati last week and sit right in the middle of the table in seventh place in the Eastern Conference. Neither of these teams has shown much in terms of relevancy in recent years in the league and know that they need to get some momentum going to likely stay in the playoff hunt, let alone be seen as a contender this year. Which team will get the valuable points from Saturday’s game?
Chicago Coming Out Of Slump
There wasn’t much to think of Chicago for much of the season so far after getting a point in the opener and then dropping their next four games before winning last week as they look to get a winning streak going into June. The four-game losing streak saw them only play one of those games at home, a 2-0 loss to Philadelphia, but last week’s home win should give them a little more confidence playing in front of their own fans for the second straight week. Last week saw Chicago play one of their most complete games of the season as they not only outpassed Miami 57-43, but outshot them 204 overall and 7-1 on goal. Chicago was also able to generate 12 corner kicks and if they’re able to have a similar number of opportunities this week, should see more goals against a worse set piece team. One issue for Chicago continues to be the injuries as they are expected to be without two defenders, only further testing their depth in the back. Chicago will need a complete offensive performance and better finishing than last week if they want to come out on top on Saturday.
The Fire only have four goals on the season, and with three of those belonging to Luka Stojanovic, it’s clear who the leader is from an attacking standpoint on this team. Last year’s leading scorer was Robert Beric, who tallied 12 goals, but only has one so far this season. If he can find the back of the net more and more in coming games, the Fire will be excited to have a secondary option for Stojanovic to lean on. Another player to keep an eye on for the Fire is Chinonso Offor, the Nigerian international whose athleticism has wreaked havoc for opposing defenses, even without him grabbing a goal yet. The Fire lack some of the household names that many of their opponents have in their starting lineups, but still have more than capable international players who can continue to grow and develop as the Fire look to rejuvenate their squad.
The issue for Chicago as opposed to some of their opponents is that they really don’t have any strength on either side of the ball after seeing them play early on this season. They’re 25th in the league in goals allowed per game and 27th in goals scored per game. Slow starts are also an issue as they on;y average 0.7 goals per first-half, meaning they typically have had to play from behind, which isn’t ideal for a team that doesn’t have the experience to handle those situations in a calm and collective way. One of Chicago’s few advantages is that they do draw fouls, 14.7 per game which is good for fifth in the league. If they can create some strong scoring opportunities by drawing those in the attacking half, it might be their best chance at finding an equalizer or go-ahead goal.
Montreal Building Off 2020
Last year saw Montreal return to the playoffs for the first time since 2016 and this young group is looking to build off that experience. Last year’s squad finished 9th in the Eastern Conference and already are sitting at seventh in the early going this season. Montreal has lost two in a row and three of their last four overall, with the lone win coming against Miami just a few weeks ago. Last week was a major concern for the club, losing at home to one of the league’s worst groups over the last few years. Not only did they lose to Cincinnati last week, but gave up a second-half lead as well in what was a pretty evenly played game between the two teams. Montreal has a goal differential of zero so far this year and will be desperate to see their young group return to their winning ways and build up that confidence that was evident earlier in the season.
Montreal’s top player this year has been Djordje Mihailovic and the former Chicago Fire star and USMNT player has been on a tear so far this year. In addition to his two goals and assist, he also has an innate understanding of a lot of his opponents on Saturday and should be able to draw on that to help expose him. So far Montreal has six players who have scored a goal this year and seven players with an assist, just showing more than ever the depth they have. Eric Hurtado might not be the most fundamentally sound player, but at least some MLS experience in some of those high-stress situations. Another player to keep an eye on is Mason Toye, the former Generation Adidas pick who spent the start of his career with Minnesota United after a historic undergraduate campaign at Indiana University.
A huge opportunity for Montreal though is to score early and put the pressure on Chicago to hold serve and not panic. Montreal is third in the league in first-half goals and come into the night with confidence knowing they’ll be facing off against one of the league’s worst defenses. Montreal is also only allowing 0.1 goals per game in the first half and if they can get a lead, it seems likely that Chicago won’t have the confidence or belief to fight back from that deficit.
Pick: Montreal (+300)
The first half is going to dictate this game as Montreal will be able to utilize their front pieces and wings in order to score early and put all of the pressure back on their opponent’s shoulders. Chicago Fire is lacking the experience when they get behind to channel that towards a strong response as they typically just fold it up and Montreal will be able to expose that. In addition, Montreal has the best player in the game in Mihailovic and he will be out to embarrass his own team, while Chicago doesn’t have any players who have that same attitude towards the game to try to turn things around and have something personal on the line when they take the field to push them forward. Expect Montreal to hold it together on both sides of the ball and to play a much more composed brand of soccer than their opponents from Chicago and to leave with a solid road win to continue to move up the table.
Pick: Under 2.5
Chicago has only hit three goals once in their last five games and that was over a month ago. For Montreal, three goals were scored in their game last week, but prior to that three goals hadn’t been scored all of May. Montreal has a strong defense, while Chicago has a terrible offense and neither team has a finisher up top that is necessarily eye-popping. In games between the two teams, at least three goals were scored in each of the last two meetings but prior to that low-scoring affairs was the norm between the two teams and in a much more normal year than 2020, will come with a much more defensive-minded set for both teams.