If the Chicago Fire are to finally record their first road win of the season, they'll have to conquer one of the league's most intimidating venues when they visit Atlanta United on Saturday.
Atlanta is 4-1-2 on its home pitch, while the Fire are 0-4-3 in away games this season. The Fire were seemingly on pace for that elusive road win on Wednesday when they scored twice in the first 14 minutes against DC United, but they ultimately needed a Francisco Calvo stoppage-time equalizer just to escape with a 3-3 draw.
With two draws and a loss over their last three games, the Fire (4-5-6, 18 points) want a victory to get themselves more firmly in playoff position as they head into the international break.
"We're hovering around the red line. We want to pitch ourselves over it," forward CJ Sapong told ProSoccerUSA.com earlier this week. "Obviously there's a lot of soccer to be played. However, it's important that we find our identity. We want to have continuity with results and confidence on the field."
Saturday marks Chicago's last match until June 22, while Atlanta will be off until June 26. Atlanta United (7-5-2, 23 points) is looking forward to some respite, as Saturday's game will be the team's eighth in a 28-day stretch, though Atlanta has been showing a lot of its MLS Cup-winning form from last season.
Wednesday's 3-0 win over Minnesota United gave Atlanta a 6-2-0 record over its last eight games. After a slow start that saw them win just one of their first six matches, Atlanta United could finish the weekend atop the Eastern Conference with a win over Chicago and some other results going their way.
Atlanta captain Michael Parkhurst said his teammates are "excited that we're towards the end of" their congested schedule, though "we can't look past the last one. ... Hopefully we can go out and take advantage on Saturday because that will make the vacation a little sweeter."
Atlanta's Tito Villalba (knee) is expected to miss his third straight game.
Josef Martinez scored twice for Atlanta United against Minnesota, giving the star forward eight goals in 14 games this season. Four of those scores have come in Martinez's last four matches.
--Field Level Media