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Waiting For Answers: Chicago Fire vs New York City FC, MLS Week 18 Preview

With so many on- and off-pitch issues still unresolved, the Fire will try to get a result against NYCFC

MLS: New York City FC at Chicago Fire Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

This shouldn’t be a “turning point” kind of game, but it kind of is.

Actually, no, it’s not. Turning point implies there was some kind of forward movement and now we’re reaching some critical mass. We’re not. Our current situation can be more accurately described as a holding pattern.

We’re waiting to see if Katai is going to be sticking around past this weekend. (We should probably start emotionally preparing for that not happening.) At the time of writing (about 11:30pm on Thursday, 6/28), we’re still waiting for a public announcement of the #Free101 appeal decision. [Update: WELP.] We’re waiting for the MLS summer transfer window to open on 7/10. We’re waiting to see if this team is ever actually going to turn a corner this season. We’re waiting, we’re waiting, we’re waiting.

But MLS doesn’t wait, not really. New York City FC is coming here this weekend. Second place in the Eastern Conference and a genuine contender for the MLS Cup this year, they’re coming here with a stronger squad and a sharper sense of clarity. They’re coming here to get three points. The Fire are mostly hoping they don’t die.

We’re waiting and we’re hoping and there’s no telling if our signal reached anyone.

Chicago Fire all-time MLS record vs NYCFC: 1W-3D-3L, 9 GF / 13 GA, 6 pts out of 21

Chicago Fire home MLS record vs NYCFC: 1W-1D-1L, 5 GF / 5 GA, 4 pts out of 9

Previously On...

Unbeaten in three games in MLS, but there’s also that 4-0 loss to the Red Bulls in the Cup. They also had to rally from behind to beat Toronto last week. So they’re definitely beatable right now.

Suggested Lineup

Sanchez; Corrales, Lillard, Campbell, Vincent; Schweinsteiger, McCarty, Bronico; Katai, Solignac, Nikolic

So pretty much last week’s lineup, EXCEPT with Vincent as a fullback (because he’s, you know, a fullback) and Lillard being brought back in from the doghouse. I realize playing folks out of position is Pauno’s thing but that doesn’t mean I have to like it or agree with it. Campos isn’t a fullback. Stop trying to make ‘fetch’ happen.

Keys To The Match

Score! First!: I know it seems like I harp on this every week, but the Fire’s record this season bears it out. When we score first, we get a result more often than not. Get that early first goal in front of the home fans and set the tone.

Spilled Milk: I am apparently part of a vanishingly small group of Fire fans that A. still likes Sean Johnson and B. is still sad that he’s gone. But there’s no going back now, and tomorrow night we have to play against him. I like the guy, but he ain’t perfect, and no one knows that more than his former teammates. Fire players know how he plays and what his weaknesses are. Find ways to exploit that. Use your inside knowledge and experience to ruin his night. Y’all can hang out and group text later.

Be Prepared For Fuckery: The referee for tomorrow night’s game is Chris Penso. Yup. That Chris Penso. There’s hardly an MLS referee that Fire fans don’t have bad memories of, but Chris Penso holds a special place in CF97 Lore. The Fire are going to be playing under officiating that is incompetent at best and actively hostile at worst, and they’re going to have to find a way to win anyway. The team should be psyched up now for a night of bullshit calls. Phantom fouls. Soft penalties. Maybe even a red card or two. Emotionally prepare for referee shenanigans now so it doesn’t catch them off-guard when it happens.

How To Watch

Television: N/A

Streaming: ESPN+

Fundraiser

Goals scored by the Fire for this game will count towards our Pride Month Fundraiser. This is the last game covered under the Fundraiser, so if you’ve been considering a pledge but haven’t yet, it’s now or never. Click HERE to donate.

Final Thoughts

Can the Fire make a big statement at home against NYCFC? Let us know in the comments below!