Which Fire team will we see in tonight’s matchup against the San Jose Earthquakes? The one that, last time out, knocked off the Eastern Conference’s best team, the Philadelphia Union? Or, the one that was listless in a 2-0 loss in the sweltering Houston heat last weekend?
The Fire have taken six of nine possible points since returning from the international break, and have ever-so-slightly started creeping up the table. They now sit 13th in the East–up one spot from dead last–and are just seven points out of the final playoff spot.
If the Fire team with the buttoned-up defense and the solid attack led by Xherdan Shaqiri shows up tonight, Chicago will have a good chance at taking three points against the woeful Earthquakes. But, as we saw in Houston, the quality of the opponent doesn’t always matter. The Fire’s toughest opponent is, more often than not, the Fire.
This is the first matchup in MLS league play for these two teams since 2019, a game where Chris Wondolowski scored all four goals in a 4-0 San Jose victory. The Fire also lost to San Jose 2-0 in 2020’s MLS is Back tournament.
San Jose hasn’t won in their last five outings. Their last victory came on May 18, a 3-2 win over the Portland Timbers.
Last summer, when famed announcer Arlo White arrived in Chicago to call Fire matches, he was everywhere. White is, after all, one of the best football announcers on the planet, and he was, at the time, the lead voice for NBC’s Premier League coverage, and the voice of the AFC Richmond Greyhounds on Apple TV’s Ted Lasso. The Fire had White meeting fans at local soccer pubs, and he was making constant media appearances. After all, that was the point, right? To leverage White’s voice and good name to hopefully draw more attention to the Fire.
This year, things are very different. White is no longer with NBC, and is now calling golf for the controversial LIV Tour–the Saudi-backed PGA Tour breakaway. The tour, like the Saudi purchase of Newcastle United, is seen as “sportswashing”–basically an attempt by the Saudis to make themselves look good to the rest of the world despite their horrible human rights record.
Despite calls for his firing, the club decided to keep White on the mic for the handful of summer matches on his schedule. Unlike last year, though, there was no pomp and circumstance surrounding his arrival. There were no media appearances, except on the podcast he hosts with Tyler Terens, the Fire’s usual play-by-play guy (Terens moves to sideline reporter during White’s summer run on the mic for WGN).
White will, no doubt, be fantastic on the call. But, it will come with a giant elephant in the broadcast booth during his run here.
Unfortunately, Francisco Calvo is out with an ankle injury for San Jose, and will not be able to play against his old mates. If Calvo had played, surely there would have been a point where he picked the ball up in his defensive third, dribbled 60 yards, lost it, and left his fellow defenders scrambling to defend a counter attack. If you haven’t watched Calvo since he left the Fire, he’s still the same dude: excellent passer, takes huge risks going forward, but switches off or vacates his position at key moments. He’s got two goals and an assist this season for the Quakes, and is second in MLS in interceptions, but like in Chicago and Minnesota before that, his team is terrible and leads MLS in goals allowed.
Fabrizio Romano recently reported that the Turkish side Konyaspor are interested in Calvo, so he may be on the way out of MLS entirely.
Don’t Forget about Brady
The Chicago Fire’s other 18-year-old goalkeeping star, Chris Brady, has the U.S. U-20’s in the final of the Concacaf U-20 Championship tonight against the Dominican Republic (7 p.m. CT, FS1). The Yanks have already clinched a spot in the U-20 World Cup, and the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris–which will mark the U.S. men’s first Olympic appearance since 2008. Like Kobe once said, though, “job’s not done.” The U.S. men will attempt to win the entire continental tournament tonight, then they can truly celebrate.
Brady hasn’t faced a ton of shots in the tourney, but he’s been stellar when he’s been called upon. It’s clear once Gaga Slonina moves to a major European club, Brady will be more than ready to step in as the Fire’s starter.
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How to Watch
San Jose Earthquakes vs. Chicago Fire
MLS Match Day #18 | Sunday, July 3 | PayPal Park, San Jose, CA
Kickoff: 8 p.m. CT
Streaming: CF97 Live (available for free at ChicagoFire.com or the Chicago Fire mobile app for fans watching within 75 miles of Soldier Field)
Out of Market Streaming: ESPN+
Follow Us! @CHGO_Fire
Fire Availability Report
- OUT: Chris Brady (international duty)
- OUT: Kendall Burks (right knee)
- OUT: Miguel Navarro (health & safety protocols)
- OUT: Wyatt Omsberg (left foot)
- OUT: Mauricio Pineda (health & safety protocols)
- QUESTIONABLE: Jairo Torres (left hip)
San Jose Earthquakes Availability Report
- OUT: Francisco Calvo (right ankle)
- OUT: Cade Cowell (international duty)
- OUT: Chofis (personal)
- OUT: Gilbert Fuentes (personal)
- OUT: Siad Haji (concussion)
- OUT: Niko Tsakiris (international duty)
Next Up for Chicago
Saturday, July 9 | Chicago Fire vs. Columbus Crew | Soldier Field, Chicago | 7 p.m. CT, WGN-TV, CF97 Live
Wednesday, July 13 | Chicago Fire vs. Toronto FC | Soldier Field, Chicago | 7 p.m. CT, WGN-TV, CF97 Live
Saturday, July 16 | Chicago Fire vs. Seattle Sounders | Soldier Field, Chicago | 7 p.m. CT, WGN-TV, CF97 Live
Saturday, July 23 | Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Chicago Fire | BC Place, Vancouver, BC, Canada | 7 p.m. CT, WGN-TV, CF97 Live
Saturday, July 30 | Chicago Fire vs. Atlanta United | Soldier Field, Chicago | 4 p.m. CT, WGN-TV, CF97 Live – Doubleheader: Chicago Red Stars vs. San Diego Wave to follow
This feels like a game where the Fire slip up, but they won’t. We say the Fire win 2-0 off a Chris Mueller brace.