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PREVIEW: New York City FC vs. Chicago Fire

We missed you, Soccer.

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The Captain.

You might call him David. You might call him el Guaje.

Forget all that.

HIS NAME IS SOCCER.

Soccer will line up with ten other guys in the famous Etihad shirt on Sunday afternoon atop the Kentucky Bluegrass of Toyota Park. This is exciting for quite a number of reasons. But here's one I especially like: NYCFC's opponent is one of the few teams in all of MLS to play demonstrably worse than the Sky Blues last year.

Oh, Soccer. we missed you.

The Chicago Fire enter the season looking to put the kind of problems behind them that New York City fans will find familiar: a manager that didn't work out, a squad that couldn't make the Eastern Conference playoffs, and a defensive unit that conceded like a third-party candidate.

This Fire team doesn't look exactly like the one that managed a home win and an away draw against New York City last year. Veljko Paunovic replaces Frank Yallop at the managerial helm, top homegrown talent Harry Shipp was, ahem, shipped off to Montreal, and star Stanford University fullback Brandon Vincent joined the Fire ranks as the fourth overall pick in January's SuperDraft.

But NYCFC has a new look, too.

Patrick Vieira brings the kind of poise and confidence that just feels warm, as opposed to Jason Kreis's painfully serious disposition. This is not to say that Vieira isn't serious himself-- he certainly is. He's serious about winning trophies. That's what he does; what he was brought here to do.

Up and down the roster, problem areas received great attention. On the back line, Frederic Brillant will be relied upon to anchor a new-look group. Out wide, Tico phenom Ronald Matarrita aims to bring athleticism and initiative down the left, while Federico Bravo and Mikey Lopez figure to contribute some steel to the base of the midfield.

Chicago boasts some attractive options on the attack, including Kennedy Igboananike, David Accam (listed as questionable), and Gilberto. John Goossens arrived just days ago from the Netherlands to help up the middle. But let's be clear: even without the services of the oft-njured Frank Lampard, New York City just has better players than Chicago, which means they ought to win. (I know! Imagine that.)

Here's how we figure Vieira's Blues to line up:

INJURY REPORT

Chicago

OUT: Eric Gehrig (right foot surgery)

QUESTIONABLE: David Accam (right hip strain), Matt Polster (right lower leg strain)

New York City

OUT: Connor Brandt (core muscle repair), Jack Harrison (hip injury)

QUESTIONABLE: RJ Allen (lumbar disk herniation), Frank Lampard (left gastrocnemius inflammation), Jefferson Mena (left lateral ankle sprain)

THREE THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

  1. MLS announced this week that New York City FC had acquired an eleventh international roster spot to bring its roster into compliance with league rules. No explanation was given as to where that international spot came from. #SoMLS.

  2. A rumor came about this week about whether NYCFC rookie Jack Harrison's hip injury was of the severity that might cause him to miss the entire season. On Thursday's media conference call, Patrick Vieira was quick to refute, adding that Harrison has "a massive part to play" for this team, and that his return is expected "much sooner than you think."

  3. Vieira has stated that he may deploy the three-at-the-back shape to add some extra flex to his midfield. As it stands, we expect the to see the 4-3-3 at the opening whistle.
THIS HAPPENED THE LAST TIME THESE TEAMS PLAYED

EDITORS' PREDICTION

Good guys 2, bad guys 0. Tony Taylor will score his first MLS goal.