The Chicago Fire hit road this Sunday afternoon for their first meeting of 2018 with Eastern Conference rival D.C. United. Kickoff is set for 12 p.m. CT and will be carried live to a national audience on ESPN.
Ahead of first kick, take a look below at some of the names, faces and storylines set to headline the conversation on Sunday:
Sunday’s match marks the latest-ever first regular season meeting of these old Eastern Conference rivals all-time (via Elias). D.C. United’s schedule was back-loaded in 2018 while construction of new home Audi Field was nearing completion in the early spring and summer months. Head coach Ben Olsen’s side played just 14 MLS matches over the first four-and-a-half months of the season prior to Audi Field’s opening on July 14, and still have five regular season matches remaining (including Sunday’s) as a result). For context, the Fire had played their 14th match of the season (a 2-1 win over San Jose on June 9) over four weeks prior.
It’ll be a quick replay as well following Sunday’s match, as D.C. travels to Chicago for the Fire’s 2018 regular season finale at Toyota Park on Sunday, Oct. 28 (3:30 p.m. CT, ESPN+ | TICKETS).
A New Chapter
As mentioned above, D.C.’s brand new Audi field was christened by the club on July 14th of this year with a 3-1 win over the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps. The occasion marked the completion of a five-year process that began in July of 2013 when Buzzard Point was formally announced as the future stadium location. Construction began with a groundbreaking ceremony in February of 2017, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony held to formally open the 20,000 seat facility on July 9 of this year.
Sunday marks the Fire’s first-ever visit to Audi Field, after going 9-15-5 all-time in matches against D.C. United at their former home, RFK Stadium.
A pair of legendary careers will intersect once more come kickoff on Sunday afternoon. Former international rivals-turned-teammates Bastian Schweinsteiger and Wayne Rooney will take the field across from one another having formerly spent time together at Manchester United prior to each player’s move to Major League Soccer. Read more about their history here.
Elsewhere on the field, United attacker Luciano Acosta has been one half of a headline-garnering partnership with Rooney since the Englishman’s arrival in late June. Acosta leads the league with 16 assists to his name and has chipped in nine goals, both of which are career highs in MLS for the 24-year-old Argentine. For the Fire, reigning Golden Boot winner Nemanja Nikolić has been in scoring form as of late, having netted five of his team-leading 15 goals over the club’s last six matches.
Entering the Match
Both sides enter Sunday’s contest with positive momentum, having earned multi-goal victories last weekend. United thrashed Montreal 5-0 on Sept. 29, adding another crucial three points to a late season playoff push that has them eying the sixth and final postseason berth in the Eastern Conference. Having won eight of their 11 matches played at Audi Field since its opening in July, the Fire – themselves reeling off a 3-1 victory over LAFC last Saturday – know they’re in for a challenge.
“It’s not going to be easy,” head coach Veljko Paunović said. “I think they have a lot of confidence after the last game, a great win against Montreal. I think that all goes to their favor, but we are a team that proved that we always give our best in every game. We have our goals, our purpose, and we want to finish on the positive side this season.”