Chicago Fire were never supposed to be in Group B of the MLS is Back Tournament and now they have a chance to surprisingly take control of the group as they face San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday. Moved over from Group A into a Western Conference group after the tournament withdrawls of Nashville SC and FC Dallas, the Fire picked up a 2-1 win over group favorites Seattle in their tournament debut. Now they take on top of the table San Jose who have already played two games in Orlando.
Being in opposite conferences these teams typically play just once a season and last year San Jose won at home 4-1 in May. The Fire won at home 2-1 in June 2018 and won three straight games in the matchup from 2016-18. The Earthquakes won back-to-back games in the series in 2014 and 2015 but Chicago leads the series since 2012 4-3 with one draw.
Chicago Fire Outlook: Keep Playing Hard
Chicago didn’t get to play in the tournament until Tuesday after their opening game against Nashville SC was postpone. They made the wait pay off as they defeated the favored Sounders 2-1 in a morning kickoff. Robert Beric scored the opener in the 52nd minute and after Seattle equalized, Mauricio Pineda scored the game winner for the Fire in the 84th minute.
The Fire started the season with a 2-1 loss at Seattle and followed that up with a 1-1 road draw at New England March 7. Beric has two goals on the season, both against Seattle, while Pineda and Jonathan Bornstein have the other goals. Djordje Mihailovic leads the team with two assists while Kenneth Kronholm has made nine saves and allowed four goals in three games.
The Fire and coach Raphael Wicky have plenty of new signees in 2020 and so far Beric, Pineda and Alvaro Medran have all contributed on the pitch. C.J. Sapong led the 2019 Fire squad with 13 goals but Nemanja Nikolic who had 12 has returned to Hungary. Kronholm led the Fire with 20 starts last season out of 34 games and had five clean sheets.
San Jose Earthquakes Outlook: Finish Strong
The game of the tournament, so far, took place between the San Jose Earthquakes and the Vancouver Whitecaps on Wednesday night with a 4-3 thriller. Vancouver led 2-0 after 22 minutes and 3-1 after 70 minutes before the Earthquakes staged an epic rally. Chris Wondolowski scored in the 72nd minute, Oswaldo Alanis tied the game nine minutes later and Shea Salinas scored the game-winner eight minutes into added time.
That win followed a drab 0-0 draw against Sounders but is enough to have San Jose atop the Group D table with four points. A win clinches a knockout round spot for the Earthquakes and a draw against the Fire should be enough to advance as well. San Jose started the 2020 season with a 2-2 draw against Toronto FC and a 5-2 home loss to Minnesota United.
Alanis and Andres Rios have two goals each while Cristian Espinoza leads San Jose with two assists. Wondolowski, the MLS record goal scorer, has yet to start a game in 2020 but he does have one goal and all four of his shots have been on target. Mario Daniel Vega has started all four games in goal with 10 goals allowed and 11 saves.
Chicago Fire/San Jose Earthquakes Betting Lines at Scoresandstats
Chicago Fire +112 to win
San Jose Earthquakes +272 to win
Over/Under 3 goals (O -123, U -106)
Chicago got a surprising win over Seattle in their tournament debut and that win has to give them confidence they can find a result against San Jose as well. The Earthquakes looked very shaky on defense throughout their game against Vancouver and can’t count on another miracle this time around.
Realbookies Pick: Head to our favorite pay per head bookie site at www.PayPerHead247.com and bet the Chicago Fire to win (+112).