Juninho ineligible for Chicago Fire season-opener Saturday

Brazilian midfielder Juninho's official Chicago Fire debut has been put on hold for one week, after news Friday that he will serve a one-game suspension Saturday for a red card earned in his final match in Mexico with former team Club Tijuana. 

The offense came in the second leg of the Liga MX Apertura quarterfinals against Club Léon on November 26, 2016. The three-time MLS Cup winner with LA Galaxy was signed on loan by the Fire on December 23, 2016. 

As noted by reporter Paul Tenorio on Twitter, the Mexican Federation requested the suspension be upheld for Juninho's return to MLS, a request that was granted by FIFA. 

“We only learned of this situation midweek,” Fire general manager Nelson Rodríguez said on the topic. “We petitioned the Mexican Federation through U.S. Soccer, but we were denied. While disappointing, we remain confident in our roster and look forward to Juninho’s debut at Toyota Park next weekend.”

Juninho impressed throughout preseason while developing a partnership with fellow MLS vet Dax McCarty in central field. He also contributed one of the Fire's top strikes of the preseason with this blast in the finale against Toronto FC:

The Men In Red officially open the 2017 season at Columbus Crew SC Saturday, with kickoff set for 1 p.m. CT and CSN Chicago carrying the live telecast. Juninho's likely Fire debut will now come at home vs. Real Salt Lake at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 11 (TICKETS).