It’s set to be a party on the lakefront on Saturday. A projected temperature of 62 and no sign of rain bodes well for those looking to start the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Chicago Fire Football (nee. Soccer) Club.
And there is much to celebrate. Owner Joe Mansueto and GM Georg Heitz have done their damndest to put out a competitive team from the opening kick, and for the most part, they succeeded so far. Despite showing obvious signs of rust Xherdan Shaqiri looks to be the playmaker this team has needed for close to a decade and young players like Stanislav Ivanov are starting to live up to their promise.
Some advice if you are headed to the Museum Campus: still wear a sweater to keep warm. 62 and windy on Lake Michigan feels like 40, especially the further up your seats are.
Second: eat Ice Cream Nachos. They are delicious, regardless of the temperature. They’re the best and arguably the most unique concession in Chicago sports and should be celebrated.
And Third: Have a great time. See friends you haven’t seen in a long cold isolated offseason, and maybe make some new ones. This sport brings people together in a way I don’t see others do, and everyone for the most part is welcoming in wonderful ways.
Enjoy the Party everyone, and also enjoy the soccer.
Chicago Fire home MLS record vs Orlando City: 3W-2D-2L, 16 GF / 8 GA, 14 pts out of 21
Orlando City started their season with a 2-0 win against a Montreal CF side fatigued by their midweek CONCACAF Champions League victory over Santos Laguna. Alexandre Pato scored in his debut and looked dangerous throughout. His partners up top and on the wings also looked full of energy and have the speed and brains to spread defences before cutting inside to get looks on goal.
Carlos Teran is unfortunately still out, so Wyatt Omsberg is back as the starting center back on the right side. There are also questions about captain Rafael Czichos's fitness as well after he took a knock in the opener last weekend, so if he is incapable of starting, look to Jonathan Bornstein to get the nod, as he played CB for most, if not all of his preseason minutes at the position.
Upfront, the Fire should start Jhon Duran instead of Fabian Herbers, full stop. This is not a negative assessment of Herbers, mind. Fabian Herbers is very good at what he does, which is provide energy and dogged determination in the final third. What he can’t do, however, is stretch the defense in a meaningful way. Duran however, does have that ability, and it’s something that the Fire needs to be able to do with more regularity.
On the other side, Stanislav Ivanov proved last week that he can play, and until further notice, he should be a permanent fixture in the starting XI.
Keys To The Match
Contain Pato: Alexandre Pato can still ball. The 32-year-old Brazilian followed in the footsteps of his former Milan partner Kaka to the land of the Mouse last season and after fighting through a bunch of injuries and recovery setbacks, he is now one hundred percent fit and ready to run the show.
Orlando likes to run around him as he lets the ball do the work, so stopping Pato has a lot more to do with disrupting passing lanes than not letting Pato get the ball, although obviously, limiting his touches is a good idea. The Fire need to be able to track and disrupt the players around Pato in order to limit the damage he can do.
Get Przybylko Involved: One of the unfortunate things about the opener was the lack of influence Kacper Przybylko had on the game. Granted a lot of that had to do with how the game was being played, but even so, it was a pretty anonymous start for the Fire’s new center forward. The goal should be for Shaqiri, Ivanov, and everyone else involved in the Fire attack to get him the ball in scoring opportunities because he will put the ball in the back of the net. To paraphrase Ozzie Guillen, “You don’t score no goals, you don’t win the ballgame.” And the Fire needs to and should win their home opener.
How To Watch
Streaming: CFFC Live (in market) ESPN+ in the rest of the US
There is no reason the Fire shouldn’t walk away with 3 points here. Orlando is by far better than Miami, but so were the Fire. 2-1 to Chicago.