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Good To Be Back: Fire @ NYCFC, MLS Week 20 Preview

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Back after the break, the Fire are looking to defend their top spot on the road

MLS: Orlando City SC at Chicago Fire
Name a more iconic duo. I’ll wait.
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that was some nice rest and relaxation. This break has been fairly interesting with all the transfer rumors flying around, but it’s time to get back to the actual soccer.

When we last saw our intrepid heroes, they had stood the line in Portland, landing a 2-2 draw. We saw quite a few players give us a bit of a scare, including a Polster injury, Basti sitting out the game, and Niko looking a bit hurt for a while (nothing there, but I was freaking out while he was on the ground). But with a multi-week break, the team seems all set to be ready for their next opponent (still sans Dax).

So most people have seen the battle for the shield between the Fire and Toronto, but NYCFC have been very sneakily setting themselves up to attempt to jump up to the top. While they’re not currently in a position to do so with this game, they’re still a strange looming threat in the background. Their main guy David Villa has been the new paradigm for DP strikers, already surpassing his 50th goal after 3 seasons. And we all know that this is the first time the Milkman, Sean Johnson, will see his old team. Let’s see how they’ve done recently.

vs. Minnesota United 6/29

vs. Vancouver Whitecaps 7/5

vs. Toronto FC 7/19

Three Keys

Restfulness or Sharpness?

So here’s a great question for coaches: Would you rather your players be well rested or or have more match sharpness than the other team? NYCFC had the same long break that the Fire had, but they just had a game Wednesday. While that could hinder tham as they’re tired, but the Fire also have a disadvantage from not playing a game in about two weeks. Who has the edge in this situation? Some will say that the team who is most rested has the advantage, but others will say that the same team may be out of practice with match play. Let’s hope the former is true.

Ain’t This Position Familiar?

Now let’s talk about NYCFC’s attack. They way they move is almost an exact replica of the Fire’s front three. We see a pure striker in the middle with David Villa and an all-around attacker out of Jack Harrison. The only difference is that Tommy Macnamara doesn’t have anywhere near Accam-like speed, but he’s deadly from outside the box. Maybe that’s where we can get them. Basically, they have about 2/3rds of the best attack in the league, so let’s try to lock down the guys who are the factors: Villa and Harrison. Tommy Mac, while he shouldn’t be forgotten, isn’t the main priority of this offense.

Super Sub

So I think the most exciting thing that happened during this break was the recall of Joey Calistri, who was on loan in Tulsa. And it’s not just because he’s my favorite member of #YAMSquad. It’s because he gives us so much more depth than before. While, yes our depth issue was in defense, our offense is actually deceivingly thin. We have plenty of players available to play wide positions, but the only player who can be that central striker on the bench has been David Arshakyan. With Calistri, we’ve got much more versatility, not only because he can play almost anywhere on the pitch, but also because his natural position is right in front of the goal. He’s a poacher, it’s his job to get in there late in the game and finish it off. While I understand if Pauno ever gets hesitant taking off or moving around Niko, Calistri can cause some damage, as he’s already proven enough so at Tulsa scoring 5 goals during his time there.

Projected Lineups

Chicago Fire

New York City FC

How To Watch

Kickoff: Saturday July 22nd, 2:00PM EDT/1:00PM CDT

TV/Streaming: CSN-Chicago, MLS Live

So will the Fire continue to defend their claim to the shield, or will Sean get his revenge and hold the Fire silent? Tell us what you think!