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MLS is Back, but the Chicago Fire will have to wait

Instead of playing Nashville SC on ESPN, the Fire will face Minnesota United in a closed-door scrimmage this morning

Chicago Fire FC

The MLS is Back Tournament opens tonight with the first ever match between Orlando City and Inter Miami. The Chicago Fire were supposed to take on Nashville SC in match two of a ESPN doubleheader, but that’s off, for now. Nashville is dealing with at least five positive cases of COVID-19, and the league is evaluating whether they’ll even stay in the tournament. Officially, the Fire-Nashville match is listed as postponed.

“It’s obviously not what we planned, but a lot of things in 2020 didn’t go the way we planned it,” Fire Head Coach Raphael Wicky said in a video released by MLS. “So, we always talk to the players and say, ‘Let’s focus on what we can control, that’s our training, that’s how we behave, that’s our focus on what we do every day.’”

With a bunch of extra time on their hands, the Fire will take on Minnesota United this morning in a closed door scrimmage at 9:30 a.m. CT. It’ll be the Fire’s first match against another team since an early March draw with New England—the last match before the COVID-19 hiatus began.

“I think you gotta look at it in a positive light,” Fire defender Jonathan Bornstein said. “We have another week to train. We’re gonna have a little bit more time to fine tune everything that we’re gonna need to be doing in our first game.”

The Fire are now scheduled to open the tournament on Tuesday morning against Inter Miami (8 a.m. CT, ESPN). However, if the league decides Nashville SC can’t remain in Orlando—as it did with FC Dallas—one of the teams from Group A may have to shift to Group B. If that’s the Fire, it’ll mean a whole new schedule.

Whatever happens, Wicky and Bornstein both said while other teams have had a bad experience in Orlando, the Fire are doing alright.

“Everything we do from nose testing, to the bus drive, to the fields here, everything is very well organized,” Wicky said. “We never have to wait, the fields are really good. We really can’t complain. The hotel is good. The food is good. Yeah, we’re ready to start. That’s the only thing that didn’t go as planned. But, so far, everything is fine.”

If the Fire decide to release information or photos from today’s scrimmage, we’ll bring those to you.

In case you missed it over the holiday weekend, Hot Time confirmed the team’s traveling roster for the tournament. Micheal Azira stayed behind after picking up an eye injury in the team’s final training session in Bridgeview before leaving, and Johan Kappelhof didn’t make the trip because of a quad injury, and because he had to go home to the Netherlands to attend a funeral. Both men could join the team later if they recover.

Here are the 25 players who are in Orlando:

Goalkeepers (4): Kenneth Kronholm, Bobby Shuttleworth, Connor Sparrow, Gabriel Slonina

Defenders (8): Jonathan Bornstein, Francisco Calvo, Mauricio Pineda, Miguel Ángel Navarro, Nick Slonina, Andre Reynolds II, Boris Sekulić, Wyatt Omsberg

Midfielders (9): Gastón Gimenez, Djordje Mihailovic, Przemyslaw Frankowski, Álvaro Medrán, Luka Stojanović, Ignacio Aliseda, Brandt Bronico, Brian Gutierrez, Javier Casas, Jr.

Forwards (4): Robert Berić, CJ Sapong, Elliot Collier, Fabian Herbers

Did Not Travel: Johan Kappelhof (injured), Micheal Azira (injured), Jeremiah Gutjahr (injured), Alex Monis, Allan Rodriguez, and Chris Brady did not travel. (Wicky said Monis, Rodriguez and Brady couldn’t travel because they weren’t registered as MLS players to start the season. They will train in Chicago, or possibly join the Fire’s USL affiliate, Forward Madison.)