It’s Game Day 26, and New York City FC are in the Second City to play the Chicago Fire for the second time this season.
The game will be held at SeatGeek Stadium, the functional if uninspiring 20,000-seat soccer-specific stadium located in the suburbs west of Chicago that the Fire called home from 2006 until 2019 before decamping for the plastic grass of Soldier Field. The game was moved because of a scheduling conflict (we know all about those).
Why the fixation on the venue? Simple: NYCFC have never won at SeatGeek Stadium.
Still, the head-to-head falls heavily in NYCFC’s favor. The two teams have played 17 times, and NYCFC are 9-5-3 with 28 goals scored and 18 goals allowed. Chicago last defeated New York City this past September, when a scheduling conflict moved the game to SeatGeek Stadium.
Match: NYCFC vs Chicago Fire
Date and Time: Sunday, August 21, 6 pm ET
Venue: SeatGeek Stadium
Bruce Arena Forecast: Cloudy, breezy, cool, 70˚F/21˚C
Watch: YES, ESPN+ (blackouts apply)
Stream: YES App
Listen: English and Spanish broadcasts on NYCFC Radio
• Player Availability: Keaton Parks is out after undergoing surgery to remove a blood clot, and Alex Callens is out with an MCL injury.
• NYCFC are in terrible form: Three straight losses for the first time since the start of the 2020 season and the MLS Is Back Tournament foolishness. It’s not just that they’ve lost, it’s how they’ve lost. NYCFC were arguably the better team in Wednesday’s “home” defeat at Red Bull Arena to expansion side Charlotte FC, but a wasteful attack and defensive blunders gave away the game.
• New York City will be at a logistical disadvantage, and playing away on short rest.
• This is not the same Chicago that New York City defeated 1-0 in May. That was a nervy win by a Taty-less NYCFC that needed a penalty to score against a dysfunctional Fire that nevertheless looked dangerous until the final whistle. Since then, Chicago have put up some solid performances, beating Philadelphia Union and Seattle Sounders at home, and Charlotte FC and Vancouver Whitecaps on the road. The Fire are 3-1-1 in their last five games.
• This run of form have put Chicago in the playoff picture. They currently sit in 10th place with 30 points after 25 games, just three points behind sixth-place Orlando and four points behind fifth-place Columbus. In fact, just five points separate the nine teams contending for the final three playoff spots: Chicago is entering this game hungry for a win.
• Chicago’s biggest move in the summer transfer window was the announced departure of wunderkind goalkeeper Gaga Slonina to Chelsea for a reported $15 million: The 18-year-old will make the move at the end of the MLS season.
• Chicago’s Designated Players are a mixed bag: Xherdan Shaquiri is paying dividends, but right winger Jairo Torres has been a bust.
• The attack remains focused on striker Kacper Przybylko, who leads the team with just five goals this season. Chicago has only 28 goals, which locks them in a three-way tie for last place in the Eastern Conference.
The comment section below is for everybody in the Hudson River Blue community to use for the game thread. Not a member? Sign up here — it’s free.