2017.05.17 Match Preview

Match Preview: Rapids head to the Windy City looking to build on Quakes win

Having claimed their first win in eight games at the weekend, with an emphatic victory over San Jose Earthquakes, the Colorado Rapids next go in search of their first road points of the year when they travel to Chicago Fire for a Wednesday night encounter.

The Fire, who have finished bottom of the Eastern Conference in the past two seasons - and next-to-bottom in 2014 - are one of the league’s hottest sides at home, where they have lost just once in 18, and boast a 4-0-1 record in 2017.

Chicago have certainly strengthened since a 2016 in which they managed just seven wins. Incoming talent includes World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger - who joined from Manchester United - as well as Serbia-born Hungarian international Nemanja Nikolić, and experienced MLS midfielder Dax McCarty.

Nikolić has seven goals in the last six games, while his eight-goal haul is good enough for equal best in MLS, alongside Erick Torres of Houston Dynamo.

The Rapids, meanwhile, will travel to Chicago with fresh impetus, having dismantled the Quakes in impressive fashion on Saturday afternoon. Albania international Shkëlzen Gashi appears back to the form which made him such a threat in 2016. His two goals against San Jose, either side of Dominique Badji’s third of the year, should serve as a much-needed boost to the attacking threat posed by the Rapids.

Central defender Axel Sjöberg is in contention for a return. Having been absent since suffering a hamstring injury toward the end of the 1-0 loss at New York Red Bulls in game two of the season, the towering Swede is with the travel party for back-to-back road games (the Rapids continue on to Philadelphia on Thursday for a game against the Union at the weekend).

Also, Trinidad and Tobago international Mekeil Williams is available again after serving a one-game suspension. This followed his red card against Vancouver Whitecaps on May 5.

With such a dominant all-round display against the Quakes last time out, head coach Pablo Mastroeni may be loathed to tinker with his starters in Chicago. That said, he will be mindful of two tough road trips in the space of three days, and the need to keep players fresh.

Competition for places, and the belief which comes from a 3-0 home win, should have the Rapids travel east with a little momentum and renewed confidence. Small steps forward for now, but steps in the right direction, nonetheless.

TEAM NEWS

Rapids: Nana Boateng (out - lower back).
Fire: John Goossens (out - ankle), Juninho (questionable - right ankle sprain)

MATCH OFFICIALS

Referee: Armando Villarreal
Assistant 1: Corey Parker
Assistant 2: Peter Balciunas
Fourth Official: Geoff Gamble

HOW TO FOLLOW

TV: Altitude
Radio: Altitude Sports Radio AM 950 (both English); La Invasora 87.7FM (Spanish)

WHAT TO KNOW

The Rapids are 14-18-9 all-time against the Chicago Fire, and 4-15-2 on the road.

Colorado are unbeaten in the last three meetings with the Fire (2-0-1), including a first-ever win at Toyota Park, courtesy of an early goal from Dillon Serna (8/22/15).

This will be a 12th midweek meeting between these two sides. The Rapids are currently 5-2-4 with matches played Monday to Thursday against the Fire.

Chicago have 17 goals from their opening 10 games. It took them until July 16, and game 18 of the 2016 season to reach the same total.

Nemanja Nikolić scored twice in the 4-1 win over Seattle Sounders FC at the weekend. His eight goals in 10 games with the Fire tie Mike Magee's total (2013) for most goals through a player's first 10 matches with the club.

Also on a hot streak is David Accam. He has four goals and four assists, including a goal and an assist in each of the last two games. 

Series: 

COLORADO RAPIDS VS. New York City FC

Saturday, September 16

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