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Show Us What You’ve Got: Previewing The 2019 Carolina Challenge Cup

The final leg of the preseason is upon us, and Ruben’s got your preview needs covered

Los Angeles Galaxy v Chicago Fire
Johan Kappelhof is back
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The end of the preseason is here. The Fire have been to Spain and back, signed a bunch of players, and played some closed door (to us) friendlies. Now, they’re off to South Carolina to take on the Columbus Crew, FC Cincinnati, and the Charleston Battery.

The Good Guys

There’s been a lot of angst about the Fire this offseason, and it’s been well deserved. Going from third in the Eastern Conference in 2017 to next-to-last place in 2018 was not a fun time, and the tension between the supporters and the front office has been thoroughly documented. But with the announcement earlier in the week, the fan tensions have been dialed back a bit. So that just leaves the on-field stuff. Hopefully we leave the CCC with more answers than new questions.

Player to Watch

I’m really curious about Przemysław Frankowski. I’ve never seen him play before, and as the most heralded new signing of the offseason, he has a lot to prove. Fortunately, the reports from Spain have been nothing but positive, and I’m excited to see what he can do.

The Opposition

Columbus Crew

The Crew have had a real interesting offseason. They’ve gone from not knowing whether they’ll be moving to Texas to become the Austin Trees to being secure in their future. They’ll be in Central Ohio for (hopefully) a long time to come.

Caleb Porter is taking over from Gregg Berhalter, who took over as USMNT head coach from Dave Sarachan. The 2015 MLS Cup winner joins the team after taking a year off from coaching after being let go by the Timbers in 2017. It will be interesting to see what he’ll do with his roster, largely unchanged from last year, where they lost in the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Red Bulls.

Player to Watch

Gyasi Zardes started his career promisingly with the LA Galaxy, has become a regular on the USMNT, and is doing well for Columbus so far. He still has questions that need to be answered, however. He’ll miss the easiest of shots and then score a wonder goal at the next opportunity. If the Crew want to make a deep playoff run, especially with the new one and done format. They’ll need Zardes to perform at a very high level.

FC Cincinnati

The newest MLS team has had an interesting introduction to the league. Unlike recent expansion sides, they’ve decided to take a more economical approach to their first season. They’ve brought up a number of players from their time as a USL side, including former Chicago Fire first round draft pick Corbin Bone. They added to their core with some MLS veterans to complete their roster, including known names such as Fernando Adi and Darren Mattocks. There doesn’t seem to be a player of the quality of Jackson Martinez or Miguel Almeron like Atlanta had in its first year, so I wouldn’t expect anything special this first season.

Players to Watch

Personally, I want to see what Corben Bone can do at an MLS level. One could argue he never really got a fair shake in Chicago, and he had so much potential coming out of college. At the Same time, 2010 was not a particularly good draft class. (Shout out to biggest bust ever Danny Mwanga.) And there’s a reason he was never picked up by an MLS club after the Union let him go in 2014, Still, it’s nice to see him back in MLS.

Charleston Battery

I’m going to be completely honest here, I don’t really know a lot about the tournament hosts. The roster page on their website lists only 14 players, and some of them don’t even have bios of their players. I have no idea how they’ll play or what any of their players are like. It will be interesting to see what they can do and what lever of play we can expect from the USL.

Players to Watch

I’m going to choose Zieko Lewis. The former 17th overall draft pick of the New York Red Bulls finds himself here because he’s the only player on this roster I’ve heard of. After a year with NYRB II, he moved on to a season playing in Iceland, where the midfielder scored three goals in eleven appearances for two clubs, he’s back in the States, and I’m curious to see what he can do.

Predictions

Much like the last time the Fire were in this tournament, they are going to win it, and go into their game against LA on March 2nd with confidence.