As Oct. 4th quickly approaches, the buzz surrounding Wednesday’s contest between Chicago Fire FC and Inter Miami CF has been palpable.
As it stands, Chicago Fire FC is tied on points for ninth place in the East, but sit in 11th place due to CF Montréal and D.C. United currently ahead in the table based on the MLS tiebreakers. On the other end, Inter Miami CF desperately needs points to keep their postseason hopes alive, sitting in 13th place with 33 points.
The last time these two teams met was on March 25, in what was Chicago’s fourth game of the campaign.
Deadlocked heading into stoppage time, it was veteran Kei Kamara who would record his first goal in a Fire uniform to give the Club their first win of the season.
Now, here we are, with only three games left in the regular season with both teams vying for one of the two remaining playoff spots in the East.
Let’s take a look at some of the fascinating numbers and storylines surrounding the midweek matchup against the Florida-based side.
Champions League winners could face off
Wednesday represents a special occasion for the League, with four former UEFA Champions League winners potentially taking the pitch together.
Designated Player Xherdan Shaqiri can potentially face three multiple-time Champions League winners Lionel Messi, Jordi Alba, and Sergio Busquets at Soldier Field.
The uncertainty behind this match remains to be seen, with Messi and Alba possibly sitting out due to injury.
Despite that, Chicago is no stranger to hosting greatness.
As a matter of fact, the last time two Champions League winners squared off against each other in MLS League play, Chicago served as the host of two European legends.
On July 27, 2019, German superstar Bastian Schweinsteiger and the Chicago Fire hosted Englishman Wayne Rooney and D.C. United at SeatGeek Stadium. The match resulted in a 0-0 stalemate between the two sides.
Additionally, since the league's inception in 1997, MLS has only ever seen 24 UEFA Champions League winners grace the pitch in a regular season contest.
On Oct. 4, there will potentially be four of them in the same stadium.
Battle of the Homegrowns
This has to be one of the most exciting matchups when you look at Wednesday’s contest.
Two of the most highly-touted American products facing off against one another at historic Soldier Field. Additionally, both players are currently Homegrowns playing for their city.
Brian Gutiérrez vs. Benjamin Cremaschi
Let’s start with the visitor, Cremaschi. He’s had an impressive run, becoming the first MLS Homegrown to make the U.S. Men’s National Team roster after appearing in MLS NEXT, MLS NEXT Pro, and MLS play. Additionally, his form during Miami’s League Cup championship run was one of the more prominent storylines, especially in the semifinal versus FC Dallas.
But on the other end lies one of the most promising prospects in the American pipeline in Gutiérrez.
With nine assists in the 2023 campaign, Gutiérrez only sits behind Atlanta midfielder Thiago Almada in assists by an MLS player under the age of 22.
What really stands out, however, is Gutiérrez’s offensive production. Compared to Cremaschi, Gutiérrez is creating more chances per 90 with 1.3, nearly doubling Cremaschi’s number of 0.7. Additionally, Gutiérrez finds himself completing more passes inside the box per 90 with 1.5, again nearly doubling Cremaschi who sits at 0.8.
Finally, Gutiérrez has won more take-ons per 90 with 1.1 in 2023, while Cremaschi sits close behind with 0.98 this season. It’s important to note that these numbers are per 90 minutes, and Gutiérrez has featured in four more matches than Cremaschi in 2023.
Make no mistake, these youngsters will be ready to impress under the bright lights of Soldier Field.
Here’s another fascinating matchup that is going under the radar.
The goalkeeping matchup with Fire Homegrown Chris Brady and Miami’s Drake Callender.
These two have solidified themselves as the true starters of their respective franchises. While Callender was under the spotlight of the Leagues Cup title run, Brady was sneakily becoming one of the best goalkeepers in the League statistically.
The Naperville native currently holds a League-best 5.6 shots saved above expected. Meaning the tougher the shot, the better he gets. For comparison, Calendar sits at -5.2 in the 2023 season.
Brady has solidified himself as an elite shot stopper, even leading the League in shot stopping off crosses this season. His efforts have led him to sit behind Callender with eight career clean sheets to the Miami ‘keeper’s nine. The only difference is, Brady has only featured in 40 matches, while Callender has appeared in 82.
At this point in his young career, Brady has recorded a clean sheet in 20% of his career MLS matches, to Callender’s 10.8%.
Callender does have the edge in save percentage, sporting an impressive .707 sv%, while Brady sits narrowly behind at .685 sv%. Callender has also received international attention, after being selected to USMNT duty for the second time in his career in June.
But the 20-year-old is quietly sparking attention around the League after being named to the MLS Team of the Matchday in Matchday 32, following his stellar clean-sheet performance against CF Montréal on Sept. 16.
Kamara searching for history
As alluded to previously, Kamara is no stranger to scoring against Inter Miami (or any team, really.). With his game-winner in the team’s 3-2 win over Inter Miami on March 25, Kamara became the first player in MLS history to score against 10 different teams.
The veteran striker now sits at 144 goals scored in his illustrious career, just one shy of tying MLS legend Landon Donovan for second most in League history.
Currently holding the Fire’s golden boot with five goals scored in 2023,, the veteran striker will be looking to extend his overall tally in front of a sold-out Soldier Field.
One of the very best offensive players in League history on the cusp of a remarkable achievement, under the brightest lights along the lakefront.
Heading into Oct. 4, it’s clear that there are a multitude of fun matchups, including superstars, goal scorers, Homegrowns, and shot stoppers.
Chicago Fire FC. Inter Miami CF. On the lakefront.
You will not want to miss this one.