Ezra Hendrickson has a problem. It’s a good one, mind you, but it’s still a problem.
Jhon Durán seemed like a lock to start at the No. 9 for the remainder of the season, until Kacper Przybylko came back from the dead with a two-goal performance against Charlotte FC. With Saturday’s match against the first-placed Philadelphia Union looming, Hendrickson isn’t giving any hints as to what he’s thinking up top.
“We’ve got a good battle going,” Hendrickson told CHGO. “As a coach, you know, it’s good to have that kind of problem where you know, both players in that position are playing really well right now. So it’s still a matter of, you know, finishing out tomorrow and see –making a decision with that. It’s going to be a decision based on who we think would best fit for that game.”
One guy who will almost surely start is centerback and team captain Rafael Czichos. He rejoined his teammates in training this week after missing the Charlotte match with a non-Covid related illness. The Fire’s back line looked shaky early on without him–giving up a goal in the opening minute–but Jonathan Bornstein and Mauricio Pineda were able to calm things down and help the team secure the win with their captain home in Chicago.
Facing Philly again
Last time these teams met, it was the Fire coming out with a surprise 1-0 win over the Union in a midweek clash in late June. That win seemed like a fluke at the time, but since then the Fire have climbed from last place all the way to a playoff position.
This time the two teams will meet at Subaru Park, and Hendrickson knows it won’t be easy.
“Yes, it’s a very tough opponent, but every opponent from here on forward is going to be hard,” Hendrickson said. “It’s going to be difficult because everybody is fighting to get in the playoffs. They are obviously fighting to be first in the East to get that bye and also may push for the Supporter Shield. I think it’s going to be a competitive match and I think it’s going to be one that both teams are going to be up for.”
The Fire have a brutal stretch to close the month, with consecutive matches against Philadelphia (1st place), NYCFC (2nd place), and Montreal (3rd place). On the CHGO Fire Podcast this week, we debated how many points it would take to consider these next three matches a success. We settled on this: Four is probably the bare minimum, five would keep the unbeaten streak going, and six on up would have the Fire climbing even higher in the standings. The Union match is the one one of the three away from home, so grabbing a point Saturday should be considered a success.
How close is Kendall Burks?
The injuries to Wyatt Omsberg and Carlos Terán has things razor thin on the right side of central defense. While Pineda is holding things down, many fans have wondered how close first round draft pick Kendall Burks is to making an appearance.
“He has six, seven months under his belt,” Hendrickson said. “C.J. Brown works with him specifically individually. He’s ready to go when called upon. He’s just, in order of our center backs right now, he’s not the next guy up right now but if we have to put him in the match, we’ll do so.”
Other news and notes
Chicago will take on Mexican side Leon in a friendly at SeatGeek Stadium on Sept. 24. The Fire aren’t the hosts or organizers of the event, however. Leon reached out about a friendly, and it worked for the Fire’s schedule, so they said yes. It’s during the Sept. international window, so it will be a good chance for guys who aren’t with their national teams to get match minutes.
The Fire announced the signing of midfielder Harold Osorio to Fire II this week. Osorio is from El Salvador, and joins Chicago from Alianza Futbol Club.
We’re moving! The CHGO Fire podcast will slide up one day to Tuesdays, starting Aug. 16. We’ll record our show live on YouTube at 11 a.m. You can join us live, or listen to the show anytime wherever you get your podcasts.
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