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The Fire return home to Soldier Field on Saturday after picking up their first win of the season and the first win of the Ezra Hendrickson era in our nation’s capital last weekend.

Stanislav Ivanov and Jonny Bornstein provided the tallies in the 2-0 win over D.C. United, while the Fire kept a third consecutive clean sheet to start the season. Dating back to Decision Day of 2021, the Fire haven’t conceded a goal in 302 minutes of play.

Now, Chicago will turn their attention to Head Coach Peter Vermes and Sporting Kansas City. Here’s what to look for in the Gerber Collision and Glass Scouting Report…

MISSING PIECES

Vermes talked about the absences that exist within SKC after their 2-0 loss at Colorado this past weekend, and their 1-2-0 start echoes his concern.

“Right now, it’s just too many guys out and too many changes within the group,” the head coach of 13 years explained on Saturday night. He did make it clear they weren’t blaming the result on the absences, but more just stating a fact.

In Vermes’ defense, there are some rather large names on the injury list, including but not limited to Designated Players Alan Pulido and Gadi Kinda and 2021 MLS All-Star Daniel Salloi.

These are three vital pieces to the SKC puzzle that really make them go. The absence of Kinda is probably the most notable, as Sporting look stagnant in the middle of the park and have been struggling to connect and go forward. Vermes made a substitution in the middle of the field before the half-hour mark on Saturday just to try and wrestle the tempo of the game back by bringing on Cam Duke for Felipe Hernandez.

Kansas City were also without the services of backup striker Khiry Shelton, who was questionable going into the Colorado game and did not make the 20-man roster.

WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE

It will be a standard 4-3-3 from SKC with Roger Espinoza playing the “destroyer” role while Remi Walter helps set the tempo.

Nicolas Isimat-Mirin plays alongside Andreu Fontas on the backline after the departure of Ilié Sanchez to LAFC. Isimat-Mirin got caught stepping a bit too far a couple times against Colorado, and the Fire will look to draw one (if not both) of the two central defenders out to create space for the likes of Ivanov and Fabian Herbers to run into. This is how the Rapids created their first goal through Diego Rubio.

The Rapids had a lot of success by both trying to break down SKC and going a bit more direct to create room in the middle of the field, which they have proven is a weak spot given the absence of Kinda.

Obviously, the absences of Salloi and Pulido give Sporting a lot less bite in the attacking third, but Johnny Russell is always dangerous and doesn’t need much to turn a game on its head. Newcomers Marinos Tzionis and Nikola Vujnović joined Russell up top against Colorado. If Khiry Shelton is fit, I would expect him to play a significant role against the Fire on Saturday.

FINAL THOUGHTS

While there may be some key absences for SKC, they are always a tough out and a well-coached group.

Dominating the midfield should be the objective of the Fire heading into this contest. Doing this will force Sporting to drop off and also make Johnny Russell defend and start from deep positions if/when Kansas City will try to hit the Fire on the break.

Miguel Navarro will have his hands full with the Scotsman on the left side of the Chicago defense and will require a bit of cover from Mauricio Pineda and Gastón Giménez, which has not been an issue over the first three weeks of the season.

Sporting zonally mark on corners, and got punished for their poor marking on the back post for the Rapids second goal. We might just see our first Fire set piece magic at Soldier Field, but I’m sure Vermes has addressed this weakness more than a few times.

With all of that said, this is a home game for the Fire and after a gutsy performance last weekend, Ezra’s group should have a ton of momentum playing in front of their home crowd for just the second time this year.

I expect another defensively-resilient and progressive-attacking performance from Chicago against an undermanned-yet-motivated Sporting side.

Can’t wait to see you guys at Soldier or on WGN and CF97 Live on Saturday at 5 PM CT.