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The Chicago Fire are back in New York City for the second time in five days, this time to face Major League Soccer’s defending champions, New York City FC.
On the day when their City Football Group siblings Manchester City may well wrap up another Premier League title, NYCFC are looking to keep pace. They sit second in the Eastern Conference, just one point out of first, and are tied for first in goals scored, and second in goals allowed.
Because Yankee Stadium is tied up with the Yankees hosting the White Sox, this one has been bumped to the Mets’ usual home, Citi Field–one of six games NYCFC is scheduled to play in Queens this season.
It won’t be easy for the Fire. Chicago is coming off a bonkers, 3-3 draw with the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday night that saw the attack clicking–with goals from Chris Mueller, Wyatt Omsberg and Xherdan Shaqiri, who played his best game in a Fire shirt. It wasn’t enough for the win, however, with the Fire’s 18-year-old star goalkeeper Gaga Slonina logging his worst performance as a pro. Two of the Red Bulls’ three goals were preventable. Normally a draw away from home is a point gained, but with the game in Chicago’s grasp before a stoppage time equalizer from Patryk Klimala, it felt a lot more like two points dropped for the Fire.
“We don’t have a lot of time to think about (the Red Bulls) game, so we have to think about (moving) forward and yeah, I’m pretty sure the boys are going to be ready on Sunday,” Shaqiri said.
After a slow start, Shaqiri’s been involved in seven of the Fire’s last nine goals (three goals, four assists), and he’s coming off an MLS Team of the Week performance. Major League Soccer’s highest paid player ($8.15 million) will need to be on his A-game if Chicago has any chance at three points in this one.
After a bit of midweek rotation from head coach Ezra Hendrickson, we have a chance to see the Fire’ s best XI starting for the first time in 2022. If so, it’ll look like this: (4-2-3-1): Slonina; M. Navarro, Czichos, Omsberg, Sekulic; F. Navarro, Giménez; Mueller, Shaqiri, Torres; Przybylko. But, with Torres and Czichos questionable, we might see Fabian Herbers start out wide and Mauricio Pineda or Carlos Terán get the nod on the back line. After a shaky outing Wednesday from Terán, Pineda seems like the safer choice.
Yes, he’s been poor lately, but those calling for Slonina’s benching are beyond nuts. Spencer Richey has been unavailable for several games because of a head injury. Chris Brady wouldn’t be a bad shout, but the Fire need Gaga to get things sorted out ahead of the summer transfer window. Hopefully, with his recent announcement he’s chosen to play for the USMNT over Poland, Slonina can put that major decision behind him and regain his form on the field. It’s easy to forget because he’s so mature for his age, but Gaga is still only 18, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone if he shows that inexperience once in a while.
How to Watch
NYCFC vs. Chicago Fire
MLS Match Day #13 | Sunday, May 22 | Citi Field, Queens, NY
Kickoff: 4 p.m. CT
Streaming: CF97 Live (available for free on the Fire’s app and website for local area fans), ESPN+ (for out-of-market fans)
Talent: Tyler Terens (play-by-play), Tony Meola (color commentary)
Live Twitter Updates: @CHGO_Fire (make sure you’re following us!)
Fire Availability Report
- QUESTIONABLE: Rafael Czichos (right lower leg)
- QUESTIONABLE: Jairo Torres (left hip)
- OUT: Spencer Richey (head)
- OUT: Javier Casas Jr. (pelvis)
NYCFC Injury Report
- OUT: Anton Tinnerholm (Achilles Tendon)
- OUT: Kevin O’Toole (head)
- QUESTIONABLE: Chris Gloster (lower body)
- QUESTIONABLE: Tayvon Gray (lower body)
- QUESTIONABLE: Maxi Moralez (lower body)
- QUESTIONABLE: Malte Amundsen (lower body)
Next Up for Chicago
Saturday, May 28 | Toronto FC vs. Chicago Fire | BMO Field, Toronto, ON, Canada | 6 p.m. CT, WGN-TV, CF97 Live
Saturday, June 18 | Chicago Fire vs. D.C. United | Soldier Field, Chicago | 7 p.m. CT, UniMas, TUDN
Saturday, June 25 | Houston Dynamo vs. Chicago Fire | PNC Stadium, Houston, TX | 7 p.m. CT, UniMas, TUDN
Wednesday, June 29 | Chicago Fire vs. Philadelphia Union | Soldier Field, Chicago | 7 p.m. CT, WGN-TV, CF97 Live
If Slonina’s form improves and Czichos is able to play, the Fire have a chance at stealing a point here. If not, it’ll be all NYCFC. We’ll say it’s a 3-2 victory by the champions.
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