Decision Day 2023 - Breaking Down Chicago Fire FC’s Regular Season Finale

fire postseason article

Decision Day is finally upon us, and the Fire are in the midst of a tightly contested battle for one the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. 

Looking for their first playoff berth since 2017, on the final day of the regular season, the Fire have an opportunity to clinch their spot and potentially host a playoff match by finishing eighth in the Eastern Conference. 

Heading into Saturday’s contest against NYCFC, the Fire are tied for ninth place in the Eastern Conference but currently sit in 11th due to goal differential. 

Despite currently occupying the ninth and final playoff spot, D.C. United is mathematically eliminated because they’ve played all 34 games and have earned the maximum amount of points possible.  

With Chicago and NYCFC both being in a position to pass them on Decision Day – Saturday will knock them out of the postseason race officially.  

With that in mind, there are five teams fighting for the final two postseason spots, with three eligible teams tied for ninth with 40 points (Chicago Fire FC, New York Red Bulls and Charlotte FC).  

Chicago is looking for its first road victory over NYCFC in franchise history, and heads into Citi Field in strong form after going unbeaten in three of the last four matches. 

As we look ahead to Saturday, let’s break down how the Fire can make the postseason. 

Clinching scenarios 

It’s no secret that Chicago is looking to break a postseason drought. 

This is what they need to get there according to the League... 

1 - Chicago Fire FC WIN at NYCFC AND CF Montréal LOSS/DRAW at Columbus Crew 

2 - Chicago Fire FC WIN at NYCFC AND New York Red Bulls LOSS/DRAW at Nashville SC  

3 - Chicago Fire FC WIN at NYCFC AND Chicago Fire FC advantage in tiebreakers over New York Red Bulls  

4 - Chicago Fire FC DRAW at NYCFC AND New York Red Bulls LOSS at Nashville SC AND Charlotte FC LOSS/DRAW vs. Inter Miami CF 

Four different ways, but we’re looking for just one of these to hit.  

Swiss army knives 

Following a five-game scoreless drought after Leagues Cup action, the Fire have found new life with Swiss midfielders Xherdan Shaqiri and Maren Haile-Selassie coming through and finding ways to contribute on the scoresheet. 

Shaqiri’s already delivered in New York this season, with his brilliant feed into the box finding striker Georgios Koutsias to give Chicago the game-winning goal and three vital points over the Red Bulls three weeks ago.

It’s no secret that Shaqiri loves big games, so he delivered again a few days later. 

On Oct. 4, in front of a sellout crowd, Shaqiri notched a brace in a Fire to lift Chicago to a 4-1 victory over a tough Inter Miami CF side in a crucial Eastern Conference matchup.  

Alongside him, Haile-Selassie made his presence felt as a second half substitute, scoring two goals of his own. With his first MLS brace, the Swiss midfielder lifted himself to the top of the Fire’s golden boot race with six goals in 2023.  

Four second half goals between the two midfielders would mark the most goals by the Fire this season.

More importantly, it gave Chicago three more points in the standings and eliminated Miami from playoff contention. 

The kids are (still) alright 

Chris Brady and Brian Gutiérrez are returning from international duty with confidence and tremendous form. 

After appearing for the U.S. Men’s Youth National Team at the U-23 level, the Homegrowns are looking to add a postseason berth to their impressive young resumes.

Heading into Decision Day, Brady already has 10 wins, the most wins by a Fire goalkeeper in a single season since 2017 (Matt Lampson - 12 in 2017).  

On top of his victories, he is only the sixth goalkeeper in franchise history to record eight or more clean sheets in a single season, joining an elite list of Fire goalkeepers to accomplish the feat, including former Homegrown Gaga Slonina and his current goalkeeper coach, Zach Thornton.  

For Gutiérrez he currently has the most assists on the team with nine. If nothing changes, Gutiérrez will become just the third Homegrown in franchise history to lead the team in assists in a single season, joining Harry Shipp (2014), and Djordje Mihailovic (2020). 

Additionally, Gutiérrez is only one of two players under 22 with nine or more assists, joining Atlanta United’s Thiago Almada.  

Additionally, following their stellar performances so far this season, both players were recently named to the annual BodyArmor 22 Under 22 rankings, with Gutiérrez listed at fifth and Brady ranked at No. 17. It marked the second consecutive year in which a Fire player was ranked in the top-five, while Brady was the only goalkeeper to make the prestigious list in 2023.

Already known as some the brightest rising stars in the League, the Homegrowns will be a vital piece of a puzzle on Saturday for Chicago. 

It doesn’t get much bigger than this. Chicago Fire FC vs. NYCFC for a chance to make the playoffs.  

This Saturday at 5 p.m. CT on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.  

See you on Saturday, Fire fans.