Storylines this week searches for a goal in a game that features two of Major League Soccer’s very best defenses, and checks for how Minnesota might put out the Fire.
As you may have heard, Chicago has the best defense in MLS in the early parts of 2022, and it’s not particularly close. The Fire have allowed just two goals through their first seven fixtures. They’ve held opponents to 0.5 or fewer xG in four of their seven games, and have collected five clean sheets. They’ve allowed just 17 shots all season, also the lowest in MLS. However, the Fire have also scored a league-low five goals, and Minnesota’s defense is nothing to sneeze at. Chicago has just 73 shots on the season (fourth-lowest in the league), and just 21 of those have been on target (second-lowest in the league). If there was ever a game where the numbers pointed to a 0-0 draw, it’s this one.
However, if there’s a recipe that Minnesota could try to use to break through the Chicago defense, it’s their new-found success on set pieces. Between Sunday against Colorado and the midweek U.S. Open Cup clash with Forward Madison, Minnesota found three different goals from corner kicks, and could very well have had more than that. After the Colorado game, coach Adrian Heath said, “Tonight we looked very dangerous on our set pieces for the first time in a few weeks.” Whether struck from the foot of Emanuel Reynoso or Joseph Rosales, the corner kicks have been dangerous and the headers have been on target over the last couple matches. Thus far this season, Minnesota hasn’t been exceptional at drawing free kicks or corner kicks, but it might be worth seeking those opportunities out more actively.
Part of the problem to solve for both of these teams is how to beat arguably the two best goalkeepers in MLS in 2022. Dayne St. Clair and Gaga Slonina each have the two highest save percentages in the league on the season, with Slonina edging St. Clair out for the top. Slonina, who received a call-up to the Polish men’s national team this week, is justifiably receiving a ton of headlines; he’s still 17 years old! St. Clair and Slonina were both named to the MLS Team of the Week in Week 3 — with St. Clair receiving MLS Player of the Week honors — which was the memorable game against New York Red Bulls for Minnesota.
Minnesota United FC vs. Chicago Fire
Allianz Field | Saint Paul, MN
04.23.22 | MLS Game No. 8
4:00 pm CT (ESPN, ESPN Deportes, SKOR North)