The Fire will wrap up their three-game homestand at SeatGeek Stadium on Wednesday night as they play host to third place New York City FC.
In what has been a grueling stretch, the Fire will have hosted the first, second, and now third place teams in the Eastern Conference all over the course of the past week.
They have a loss and a draw to show from the first two matches, but here is what to keep an eye out for heading into the Fire’s second 2021 meeting with head coach Ronny Deila’s NYCFC…
LAST TIME OUT
The previous meeting between these two sids was on Aug. 4, and it finished in a 0-0 draw.
It was relatively similar to the 0-0 draw against Nashville on Sunday, in which neither team generated any true chances. Both teams failed to exhibit any sort of quality in the attacking third, but there was a massive silver lining in Gabriel Slonina. His first career start that day made him the youngest goalkeeper in MLS history to do so at 17 years and 81 days.
It was the perfect game for the teenager to get his feet wet, earn a clean sheet, and experience the bright lights of Soldier Field.
A LOT TO PLAY FOR
As it stands, NYCFC would host a first round game in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, but it is touch tight from third place to eighth in the Eastern Conference table. At the moment, only two points separate NYCFC and eighth place Atlanta United.
Deila’s side has everything to play for with eight games remaining, but they of course have been enduring the same jam-packed match schedule as everyone else. There might be some rotation from them like we saw from New England and Nashville in the Fire’s last two matchups.
A SLIGHT DIP
NYCFC have stumbled a little bit over the past three weeks, with just one win in their last six games. That sole win came against FC Cincinnati.
“The Pigeons” are coming off of two Hudson River derbies, in which they fell to their rival New York Red Bulls 1-0 over the weekend and drew them 1-1 last week.
The good news over those two results is that they have started to reintegrate their Brazilian striker, Heber, who is coming off of an ACL surgery undergone late last season. He got 31 minutes of action in those two games against their rivals across the river, and that is very good news for NYCFC fans as we get closer and closer to the postseason.
Meanwhile, their new Designated Player signing Talles Magno (also from Brazil) has been playing a lot recently, having started the last four matches and scoring his first MLS goal in a 3-3 draw against FC Dallas. The Brazilian is only 19 years old, and was included in The Guardian’s “Next generation 2019” list.
This is another big test for the Fire to see where they stack up against the best teams in the league at the most crucial junction of the season.
This group are always one of my favorite teams to watch in MLS, and their front four are really fun to watch between Maxi Moralez, Magno, Jesus Medina and Taty Castellanos - who leads the team with 13 goals this year. NYCFC will also have the services of Keaton Parkes, after he served a one-game suspension over the weekend.
NYCFC need to keep pace in order to get a home playoff game and I think you’ll see them get after this game. I doubt we’ll see another 0-0 draw.
The Fire will need a complete performance, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, in order to get their first three points since Aug. 28 on the road at the Red Bulls.