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Fantastic Games (and How To Win Them): Fire @ Columbus Preview, Team News, & How To Watch

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The time for “Fire House East” has been renewed, and more important then ever.

MLS: Toronto FC vs Chicago Fire
The Goose stares deeply into the Lion’s eyes after scoring a goal. Niko walks over to stop the fan fiction.
Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

It’s time for the Chicago Fire to finally show what they’re made of. Yes, it’s opening day of the 2017 Fire Season and they have a lot to prove. They are currently at dead last in almost every power ranking out there and are at around 4 to 1 odds to win this game. No one said this season wouldn’t be an uphill battle. But the Fire have a unique chance to do something to prove that they will make the playoffs by doing another thing they haven’t done in a long time, win their first game of the season. That’s right, the last playoff win came from the same season as our last season opener win, a 3-1 road win against Dallas in 2009. This will mean we need all hands on deck in Columbus as we try to bounce back out of the depths of Wooden Spoon Land. Here’s a few suggestions for the team:

3 Keys To Win

Score Early and Often

The Fire’s attack is probably the biggest thing that stood out this preseason, scoring a total of 18 goals. That was an average of 3 goals per game in the preseason. But it didn’t work out very well in the first two matches in which we won only 1-0 on very sketchy goals. It seemed that we had since ironed out those mistakes, scoring 3 or more goals in each following match, but we need to be on point from the beginning. This is especially important against Columbus right now because of Zack Steffen. “Who’s Zack Steffen?” you ask? Zack is Columbus’ brand new goalkeeper. Okay, roll it back, he’s been on the team for the past year, but he hasn’t made an appearance yet. He’s been announced as the Crew’s official goalkeeper this season. What I’m getting at is he’s a young goalkeeper who may be easily shaken if we start pumping his net full of goals. Of course scoring will help us win, but what I mean is that the more we score, the better chance we have of scoring next time.

Dax and Juninho Need to Destroy Columbus’ Midfield

To be completely honest here, Columbus’ midfield is probably one of the best in the league. With Will Trapp on the defensive part and Federico Higuain, Ethan Finlay, and Justin Meram leading the attack, they’ve got a solid grasp on the center of the park. That means that we’ll get a big test of how new arrivals Dax McCarty and Juninho will handle a good midfield together in a real match. In the preseason, Dax looked to be everywhere, but Juninho seemed to be a bit more focused on the attack. This match will give a good look at how our midfield will function the rest of the year.

[Ed. Note: MLSSoccer.com’s Fire beat writer Paul Tenorio is reporting Juninho will be unavailable tomorrow due to a suspension picked up in his last game in Liga MX last season. This is, of course, patently ridiculous.]

Make MAPFRE Stadium “Fire House East” Again

We need to establish ourselves again, and what better way to do that than marking our territory in a place where have established ourselves before? Back when MAPFRE was still just “Crew Stadium”, the Fire would go in there every game and win. Recently we’ve been struggling with the simple concept of winning on the road. We should knock out two birds with one stone here by winning our first game, on the road, in Columbus.

Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1):

Jorge Bava; Vincent, Campbell, Kappelhof, Harrington; McCarty, Goosens; Accam, De Leeuw, Alvarez; Nikolic

How To Watch:

Kickoff: March 4th, 2017, 2:00 PM EST/1:00 PM CST

TV/Streaming: CSN Chicago, MLS Live

What are your thoughts on the season opener? How do you think the game will end? Join the conversation in the comments below!