Fire on the rebound, Impact go for second win in a row

The Chicago Fire will look to bounce back at home when they host the Montreal Impact on Wednesday night at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill.

Chicago (2-4-2) is coming off a 2-1 loss to Atlanta United on Saturday, which marked only the second time in the past six games that the team has failed to earn a point. The Fire stumbled early with two losses to start the season but have gone 2-2-2 since then to emerge from the cellar of the Eastern Conference.

Fire coach Veljko Paunovic is encouraged by his team’s recent improvement.

“We keep growing,” Paunovic said to reporters after Saturday’s game. “I see my team, every game, better and better. … What I like, and I always want to see in our team, we never give up. We push until the end. With this attitude, we will for sure win more games.”

Montreal (3-6-0) is one point ahead of Chicago in the conference standings. The Impact will go for back-to-back wins after a 4-2 decision over the New England Revolution on Saturday, which snapped a four-game losing streak.

This is the first of two regular-season meetings between the teams. The next match is set for Aug. 18 in Montreal.

Last season, the clubs played to a 2-2 draw in Chicago, and the Impact cruised to a 3-0 win on their home field. Forward Matteo Mancosu scored one goal in each of the matches for Montreal, and teammate Ignacio Piatti had two goals in the second game.

Piatti leads the Impact this season with five goals and six assists in his first eight games. Midfielder Jason Vargas is next with three goals, and forward Anthony Johnson-Hamel and midfielder Raheem Edwards are tied for third in scoring with two goals apiece.

The 33-year-old Piatti tallied a goal and three assists in Montreal’s win over New England. He ranks first in franchise history with 52 goals, and this season he is in the top five in the league in goals and assists.

“This guy is unbelievable,” Edwards said to the team’s official website. “It’s still a little unreal for me to watch him play. He’s just so good. I don’t know what he does and how he does it, but he’s pretty magical.”

Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush has made 51 saves on 74 shots and had two shutouts this season. Montreal has allowed 23 goals, most in the league.

Chicago will try to capitalize on Montreal’s defensive weakness with its talented attackers, led by forward Nemanja Nikolic. The 30-year-old Serbian has five goals in eight games after scoring 24 goals in 34 games in 2017.

Fire midfielder Aleksandar Katai is second with two goals. Meanwhile, veteran midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger has a goal and four assists in his second season with Chicago.

Chicago goalkeeper Richard Sanchez has made 28 saves on 43 shots. He has posted one shutout.

Montreal is 1-5-0 on the road, and Chicago is 1-3-1 at home.