May 8, 2018 / 7:52 PM / 15 days ago

Fire, Impact hope changes reap rewards in midweek match

Changes have been the norm in recent weeks for both the Chicago Fire and Montreal Impact, and expect more because of short turnarounds and busy schedules when the two sides square off on Wednesday at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill.

The Fire (2-4-2) are still smarting a bit from a 2-1 home loss to Atlanta United on Saturday. Chicago fell into a two-goal hole when Atlanta scored twice in a four-minute span early in the second half. Kevin Ellis brought the Fire to within one in the 61st minute, but they could not find the equalizer.

The Fire will stay with some of the changes that coach Veljko Paunovic installed a few weeks ago, with Bastian Schweinsteiger back at the sweeper spot to play behind attacking midfielder Aleksandar Katai and forward Nemanja Nikolic. That configuration produced dividends, if not a win, during a 2-2 road draw with Toronto FC on April 28.

“I’m proud of the effort of our team, our guys,” Paunovic said after the loss to Atlanta. “We played the mature game against a very good team. We did a huge effort in the first half, we were the better team and we also had a good second half, except the two details that decided the game.”

The Fire are 2-2-1 over their past five matches, with both the losses coming at home.

“We also have to look at ourselves, how we can do better, also on the ball, how we can create more chances and more goals,” Chicago defender Johan Kappelhof said. “We can be proud of ourselves over the last three games and take that to the next game, to Montreal, to get three points.”

Montreal (3-6-0) heads to the suburbs of the Windy City on the heels of a dominating 4-2 home win over New England on Saturday that snapped a four-match losing streak.

Impact coach Remi Garde made three changes from the team that fell 4-1 to Atlanta the week prior, with Victor Cabrera replacing Rudy Camacho in central defense and Raheem Edwards and Anthony Jackson-Hamel as part of a three-man forward line, moving Ken Krolicki and Jeisson Vargas to the bench.

Jackson-Hamel scored the first of back-to-back goals in first-half stoppage time and and netted the second six minutes into the second half. Edwards and Ignacio Piatti scored three minutes apart to extend the lead to 4-0 before Wilfried Zahibo netted a late brace for the Revolution.

“I like that we score goals, of course, and the way we did it was very interesting,” Garde told MLS.com after the win over New England. “I told the guys at halftime we wanted to win the second half because we have been in good position in recent weeks without any positive conclusion.”

After the match, Garde was already looking ahead to the next challenge — two games in just four days for the Impact.

“What we accomplished was great, but there’s not much time to enjoy it,” Garde said. “We still need to progress, but this was a good beginning of an answer.”

Montreal leads the all-time series between the Impact and Fire 6-5, with five draws in the 16-game history, including a 2-2 tie in the last meeting in Chicago on April 1, 2017. The Fire own a 3-1 edge in matches played in Chicago, with three draws.

—Field Level Media

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