At the risk of sounding both melodramatic and understating everything, 2020 has been hell on earth.
COVID-19 has taken so much away from us. For some of us, it’s taken the lives of friends and family. It’s taken away some livelihoods and made us rethink how we interact with each other and the world at large. It’s made us reprioritize how we think about the world and what’s important. We’re now one year later, and we’re finally starting to get around to something resembling normalcy. Thanks to the effort of the frontline workers and members of the scientific community working tirelessly often without proper gratification, we get to enjoy the outside again, and with that, live sporting events. Soldier Field will be filled (to limited capacity) with Fire fans as was the plan against Atlanta United last March.
Those in attendance will be in for a treat. The Fire are set to play host to the eastern conference runners-up New England Revolution in what is sure to be a classic tough MLS matchup of old rivals. The game is sure to be physical and sloppy and could easily turn into a slugfest, just like the old days. How fitting would that be, an old game in the old home as we creep closer to how it was in the old times. If we’re lucky, it will be the old result. 3 points for the Fire and loud joyous drums and horns. Regardless, it feels good to be home.
Welcome back. We missed you.
Chicago Fire home MLS record vs New England Revolution: 17W-9D-6L (0-3-0 in OT), 61 GF / 38 GA, 60 pts out of 96
On The Opposition
The Revs made the eastern conference final last season. Aside from the Crew, this is probably the worst matchup the Fire could draw for their first game. Adam Buksa and Gustavo Bou are as legit as ever and are as exciting to watch as they are deadly in front of goal. The addition of Emmanuel Boateng will only strengthen an already good squad. It’s championship or bust for Bruce Arena’s squad.
The Fire’s injury report looks like this— OUT: Elliott Collier, Fabian Herbers, Stanislav Ivanov, Kenneth Kronholm, Carlos Teran. QUESTIONABLE: Ignacio Aliseda, Miguel Navarro. This makes the lineup choices both obvious and slightly depressing. Having to start Offor instead of Aliseda is a place no one would want to be in the first game of the season. Offor is and plays like a classic 9, which means that Bornstein’s defensive responsibilities are going to be magnified.
Keys To The Match
90 Minutes of Defense: If you grew up in the 90s watching sports in Chicago, you’re familiar with the name Norm Van Lier. As the analyst for Bulls pre and post-game shows on FSN and Sports Channel before that, there was always one constant thing that made him upset— when the team failed to give 100 percent effort over the course of the game. The same applies to the Fire. Win or lose, I need to see 90 minutes of effort out of this club, especially on defense. They’ve given up so many cheap goals over the last several seasons that not doing that needs to be the top priority.
Control the Game: The Fire are at home in front of fans for the first time since 2019, and they should use the boost that will give them to control the tempo of the match. They need to keep the ball off of the feet on the Revs dangermen in midfield and attack and the best way for them to do this is to keep the ball for themselves. Possession is only one part of it though. They need to press high when they lose it and make the Revolution backline make plays. Then they need to win every 50-50 ball that comes their way.
Someone Other than Beric Needs to Score: This is the big one that’s going to determine whether or not the Fire walk away from this one with at least a point. Robert Beric was statistically one of the best center forwards last season, but the next highest scorer on the club was Fabian Herbers with 4. They have to find a secondary scorer with more punch than that if they want to improve on their 5 win 2020 season. It would be nice if they had something from the jump.
How To Watch
Television: WGN-TV Channel 9
Streaming: chicagofirefc.com/live or the Chicago Fire mobile app (in Chicago)/ MLS live on ESPN+ (out of market)
This is probably the toughest opening day game you could ask for. But with the boost from fans in attendance, the outcome should be positive. However, I’m going to be a fence-sitting coward and declare this one a 1-1 draw. Buksa and Calvo score the goals.