The Chicago Fire are set to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon on the pitch in Bradenton, Fla., resuming their slate of 2018 preseason friendlies with a contest against Florida Gulf Coast University (3:30 p.m. CT | STREAM) at the IMG Academy.
With March 10th's regular season opener against Sporting Kansas City getting nearer by the day, here's what you need to know ahead of Saturday's next opportunity to do some fine-tuning:
Coming off of an 8-6-3 season, the FGCU Eagles saw their 2017 campaign come to an end in the semifinals of the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament after falling 2-1 to Lipscomb. FGCU returns 2017 leading scorer Shak Adams -- who picked up seven goals last season -- as well as assist leader Dennis Zapata (5).
Of note, current Fire trialist Albert Ruiz is a product of FGCU, having been named a finalist for the MAC Hermann trophy in 2016 after scoring 22 goals and helping lead the Eagles to a 2016 ASUN Conference title. Ruiz featured nine times for FGCU in 2017, scoring four times.
Midweek vs. Montreal:
Head coach Veljko Paunovic and his men are coming off of a midweek meeting with the Montreal Impact on Wednesday night in which they experienced their first defeat of the preseason. Midfielder Dax McCarty provided the lone goal for the Fire, getting his head onto a driven free kick from 2018 MLS SuperDraftee Diego Campos in the 55th minute.
"Dax told me right before the free kick just to put it right in front of the goalkeeper," Campos said. "That's what I did, and he did a great job to get there and score."
Despite McCarty's header, Montreal came away with the victory courtesy of first half goals from Ignacio Piatti and Matteo Mancosu.
Righting the Ship:
The pair of goals allowed to Montreal on Wednesday were the first given up by the Fire defensive unit in the preseason, after maintaining clean sheets in a 2-0 win over the University of Southern Florida and a 0-0 draw against the Philadelphia Union.
According to defender Jonathan Campbell, getting back to that defensive rigidity will be among the team's main areas of emphasis in Saturday's friendly.
"I think we need to just work on our offensive movements and that creative final pass in the final third and get that going for us," he said. "Then, we need to get back to being solid defensively and not giving up any goals. I think those are a couple things we'll focus on in this game, and then always just good fitness."
Chicago Fire Training Camp Roster (as of Feb. 15, 2018):
Goalkeepers: Stefan Cleveland, +Sam Howard, Richard Sanchez
Defenders: Jonathan Campbell, Jorge Corrales, Christian Dean, Johan Kappelhof, Grant Lillard, +Maxi Moreira, Matt Polster, Rafael Ramos, Brandon Vincent
Midfielders: Mo Adams, Brandt Bronico, +Omar Castro, Drew Conner, Daniel Johnson, Dax McCarty, Djordje Mihailovic, Bastian Schweinsteiger
Forwards: Jon Bakero, ^Diego Campos, ^Elliot Collier, Michael de Leeuw, +Josh Gatt, Nemanja Nikolic, +Albert Ruiz, Luis Solignac
*Chicago Fire Academy Player
^Unsigned SuperDraft Pick