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The Fire will head to Cincinnati for the penultimate match of 2022 for a rematch of what was a devastating 2-1 loss at Soldier Field back on May 14.

Over the course of this season, Saturday’s opponents FC Cincinnati have turned themselves into a postseason side from perennial wooden spoon winners.

Here’s what to look for in the Gerber Collision and Glass Scouting Report when the Fire head to “Hell” and a sold out TQL Stadium.

ZERO TO PLAYOFF HEROS

What FC Cincinnati has done this year is nothing short of spectacular. Their first three years in MLS saw them finish in dead last in the overall table not once, not twice, but all three seasons.

They were giving up more than two goals per game and failing to score along with it.

Now, under General Manager Chris Albright and first-year head coach Pat Noonan, Cincy are on the verge of clinching their first MLS playoff berth on Saturday night at what is reportedly a sold out TQL stadium.

Both Noonan and Albright had been perfecting their craft at the Philadelphia Union before taking their talents to the banks of the Ohio River.

In addition to hitting on some of their own signings like Obina Nwobodo, Jon Nelson, and Matt Miazga, some of the players who had already been at Cincy have finally come good or shocked the league. I’m talking specifically about the three-headed monster of Brenner, Brandon Vazquez and Luciano “Lucho” Acosta. All three of these attacking threats had been in Cincinnati prior to the arrival of Albright and Noonan, and are having obscene seasons.

Between the three of them, they are responsible for 39 goals and 28 assists. Vazquez has emerged as a pure No. 9 who can both stretch the field and operate in a hold-up role. Brenner has finally come good after he was highly-touted coming over from Sao Paolo, while Acosta has torn up this league before and is doing it once again.

The defense could still use a bit of work as they have conceded 51 goals this year in comparison to the Fire’s 45, but the three-back system of Geoff Cameron, Matt Miazga and Nick Hagglund has provided some much needed stability.

PLAYOFF SCENARIOS

After Miami’s dramatic 1-0 win at BMO Field on Friday night against TFC, there are several scenarios in which Cincy can clinch their playoff spot. Here are the easiest to understand:

  • A win against the Fire AND a draw/loss from Columbus.
  • A win against the Fire AND a draw/loss from Orlando City.

Hence the sold out crowd.

It is very possible that the boys in blue and orange can secure their spot in the postseason for the first time in its MLS history and no one in Cincinnati wants to miss it.

Side note - TQL Stadium was recently voted the world’s best football ground of 2022 by FIFA. Pretty cool.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Despite the Fire being eliminated, this is a fantastic opportunity to play in a playoff-like atmosphere and play the role of spoiler.

Guys are still fighting for the trust of Head Coach Ezra Hendrickson, in addition to contracts for 2023 and beyond.

This will be a real test of the character of this group to go out and fight in a hostile environment and halt the playoff proceedings of a team they beat 4-3 in epic fashion last year at TQL.

Tony and I will have you covered on WGN and CF97 Live at 6:30 p.m. CT.