After an empty trip to Washington D.C. last week, the Fire return to Soldier Field this weekend to take on Inter Miami CF for the very first time.
Searching for their first victory of the season, the Fire will look to turn their luck around against new head coach Phil Neville and the ever-entertaining 2020 expansion side from South Florida.
Here’s what to look for on Saturday at Soldier Field:
Flair, money, celebrities, bright colors and unpredictability.
All of these things reside within the 305 and are reflected in their fútbol team as well.
The owner is David Beckham. Their coach, Neville, is a former Manchester United great. Their new striker, Gonzalo Higuaín, scored bags of goals for Juventus and Real Madrid. Their central midfielder, Blaise Matuidi, won the FIFA World Cup in 2018.
Miami did not miss on bringing in some of the sport’s biggest names to go along with some exciting young and more mobile talent like Mexican Men’s National Team star Rodolfo Pizzaro and former Celtic midfielder Lewis Morgan.
“The Herons” reached the playoffs as the 10 seed last year, and are off to a decent start this season. They’re coming off a 3-2 win at FC Cincinnati’s new palace, TQL Stadium, last weekend. Higuaín recorded a brace, and Brek Shea (of all people) christened the new West End stadium in neon pink for its first goal. Neville’s group are 2-2-2 to start 2021, with both of their wins coming away from home.
Phil Neville sets his group up in a 4-2-3-1 that is very attack-minded.
Any game, maybe with the exception of one against Nashville, is going to be open against them. Their two holding midfielders (usually Gregore and Matuidi) act as somewhat of a shield in front of the backline, but the full-backs usually have the green light to go forward.
Higuaín provides good hold up play, but - in tough matches in which Miami struggle to find him in an advanced area – he’s guilty of dropping really deep to get on the ball. Pizzaro has carte blanche to go wherever he wants. In my opinion, he should be at the top of any team’s scouting report. Pizarro is clever on the ball, inventive and - if given time and space - will almost always find a way to hurt you with killer pass or by finishing off a move himself.
Morgan is another one to really keep an eye on. He has a ton of pace, is sharp on the ball, possesses a silky first touch, and can score goals. The Scotsman enjoys playing as an inverted winger and cutting in on his right foot, but he also has the capability to get to the end-line and provide good delivery with either foot.
I’ve mentioned Higuaín a couple times already, but it’s pretty simple. Close him down if he is within 30 yards of goal, and make sure he’s accounted for when delivery comes from the flanks. If not, you’ll get burned in a similar fashion to FCC, who allowed the Argentine legend a brace en route to MLS Player of the Week honors.
The Fire will need to be disciplined in their defensive-attacking and accounting for the counter.
I’ll continue to use that phrase, because it is so important and such a big talking point in the modern game.
Fire midfielder Przemysław Frankowski and whoever plays on the left wing will need to be sharp and efficient. They will find themselves with space and time to make decisions, but they need to be good ones. At home, against a side like Miami, an early goal and quick start could very well be a key ingredient to the Fire’s first three points of the season.
Midfield tandem Àlvaro Medrán and Gastón Gimenéz will have their hands full with Gregore and Matuidi, but if they can keep the ball, making them work will only work to their advantage.
I believe the key to beating this Miami side is to limit their time on the ball and really make them shift defensively. Get them disinterested and moving from side-to-side and that will eventually lead to openings and breakdowns.
Saturday’s game is nationally-televised on TUDN and will be streamed live on Twitter, so you’re spared from me and Tony’s commentary. Special shoutout to Sector Latino, as they were reinstated as an official supporters’ group last week and will be reintroduced, officially, this weekend at Soldier Field. Let's get it loud on the lakefront.