Raphael Wicky says Chicago Fire are in buoyant form as they head to Nashville SC in search of a third straight win.
The Fire have lifted themselves off the foot of the Eastern Conference with successive wins over Atlanta United and Orlando City.
They now face a Nashville team who are unbeaten in four games and sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, five points behind leaders New England Revolution.
” mean, obviously when you win and have results, the mood is always better around the club, in the team, in the locker rooms and everywhere,” Wicky said.
“That’s normal. People are happier when they win, we don’t want to lose. And obviously the quality in training or the competition in training is getting better. But that is more to do with players coming back from injuries, with players getting rhythm again.”
Nashville coach Gary Smith, meanwhile, is relishing the chance to introduce new signing Ake Loba, who has joined from Mexican side Monterrey.
“It’s been wonderful to watch him in full flow,” Smith said of Loba, who has been training with his new team.
“He’s got great footwork and very lively feet, a really good centre of gravity and great change of pace, as he tries to get away from the defenders.
“Already, I can see some very nice connections and I do believe he’ll give us a dimension that we don’t have at the moment, which will be important as we move forward and try to achieve something that we didn’t last year.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Nashville SC – Ake Loba
If he is passed fit to feature, Loba will be looking to make a swift impact with Nashville. He scored five league goals in 18 appearances for Monterrey in 2020-21.
Chicago Fire – Robert Beric
Robert Beric netted his first goal since April in Chicago’s last game, and Wicky needs last season’s top scorer to keep up his form if the Fire are to push for a playoff place.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Alvaro Medran has assisted on five of the Fire’s last eight goals, including two against Orlando City in their last match. Medran has 11 assists for the Fire since the start of last season, nearly twice as many as any other player (Djordje Mihailovic (now of CF Montreal – six).
– Nashville has waited until the 75th minute or later to score an MLS-high 38% (6 of 16) of their goals this season. Nashville has trailed in the final 15 minutes of matches five times this season but has only lost once (W1 D3).
– Chicago has collected seven points from its last three matches, scoring three goals in each of those games. This is the fourth time Chicago has scored at least three goals in three straight matches though they’ve never done so in four in a row.
– Going back to last season’s playoffs, Nashville SC is unbeaten in 10 straight home matches (W5 D5). Overall, Nashville has lost only one of its last 20 home matches, a 1-0 defeat to FC Dallas in November 2020.
– This will be the second meeting between Nashville SC and Chicago, with the sides drawing, 1-1, in Nashville in October 2020