Fire-Atlanta United Preview

Chicago Fire coach Raphael Wicky is under no illusions that his side are in for a tough game when they go up against Gabriel Heinze's new-look Atlanta United.

Both Chicago and Atlanta were held to draws in their season openers, though Atlanta have won both of their CONCACAF Champions League meetings with Alajuelense this month.

Heinze has swiftly implemented a new style at Atlanta, with more than a nod to Marcelo Bielsa's system, though Wicky believes his Fire team are nevertheless well prepared.

"We have enough information. We have their games which they have played in the Champions League and the game against Orlando," he said.

"They have a new coach and we know how this coach plays. They have some good additions. They're a strong team, they have been since they've been in this league, a very strong team.

"They had a difficult year last year but they had very good players so we know that this is a good opponent, we respect the opponent. We know what they want to do. We also believe that we have our chances to win these games."

Former Manchester United defender Heinze has taken up a role at Atlanta after impressing in his native Argentina with Velez Sarsfield and Argentinos Juniors.

However, Heinze has revealed his frustration at the MLS' rules over using – or rather, not using – academy talents.

Academy players in the United States are not allowed to participate in official league matches above the USL level, unless they have signed a progressional deal.

"The rules here are much different and I don't agree with them at all. I want a lot of academy players to play for the first team but that's not possible," Heinze said, via the Athletic.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Atlanta United – Josef Martinez

Injury limited Josef Martinez to just one MLS appearance in 2020, and the Venezuela forward came on from the bench last time out. With Martinez back, Atlanta undoubtedly have one of the best attackers in the league at their disposal, if he can regain full fitness.

Chicago Fire – Luka Stojanovic

Robert Beric is no doubt Chicago's star man, but the forward needs support if the Fire are to really push on this season. Stojanovic might be one of the players to do that, with the midfielder getting his first MLS goal in the 2-2 draw with New England Revolution.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Chicago have won their last two meetings with Atlanta United, a 5-1 victory in July 2019 and a 2-0 win in September 2020, both at home.

- Atlanta won just four of its last 22 matches beginning with the MLS is Back Tournament last July (D5 L13). United have averaged 0.86 goals per match in that span after scoring 1.90 per match in its first 113 MLS matches (including playoffs).

- Chicago lost a two-goal lead and drew New England 2-2 on Saturday, extending their run of failing to win their opening match of the season to 12 games, a league record.

- Ten different Atlanta players attempted at least one of their 11 shots against Orlando City on the opening weekend. Only Emerson Hyndman (two) took more than one, though he was not one of the three players to hit the target.

- All 12 of Robert Beric's open play goals in MLS have been assisted, with seven different players providing the primary assist on at least one of them.