It’s Matchday 2, and New York City FC are in the City of Broad Shoulders to face a Chicago Fire that sat out opening weekend with a bye.
NYCFC didn't impress in their 0-2 loss last week in Nashville, but that was then, and the team that boarded the charter flight yesterday have two key additions that could completely transform the squad: Defensive midfielder James Sands rejoined New York City midweek, attacking midfielder Santiago Rodríguez rejoined yesterday, and both are reportedly available to play today. As Matt Damon said, how you like them apples?
NYCFC vs Chicago Fire H2H
The head-to-head between NYCFC and Chicago heavily favors the Boys in Blue. The two teams have met 18 times, and New York City have won 10 of those games, and are currently riding a three-game winning streak that dates back to 2021.
Match: NYCFC at Chicago Fire
Date and Time: Saturday, March 4, 8:30 pm ET; Kickoff at 8:39 pm ET
Venue: Soldier Field
Bruce Arena Forecast: Gusty, chilly, 41˚F/5˚C
Watch: Apple TV (free)
Broadcast Team: Kevin Egan (former play-by-play announcer for Chicago Fire and Atlanta United), Kyndra de St. Aubin (former television analyst for Minnesota United FC)
Listen: English and Spanish broadcasts on NYCFC Radio
Referee Crew: Filip Duijc (Referee), Corey Rockwell and Adam Garner (Assistant Referees), Guido Gonzales Jr (4th Official), Geoff Gamble (VAR), Jennifer Garner (Assistant VAR)
• NYCFC player availability: Tayvon Gray and Alfredo Morales both trained separately this week, and both are questionable for this game. The rest of the squad is available. UPDATE: The club confirmed that Gray and Morales have minor injuries and didn’t travel with the team.
• How will head coach Nick Cushing line up his team? The smart money is on a 4-3-3 with Sands pushing up when NYCFC are in possession and dropping back between Maxime Chanot and Thiago Martins when the team are defending. As Cushing explained in an exclusive interview with Hudson River Blue, the strategy is to keep possession, move the ball quickly, find space, and create more chances.
• Will Cushing stick with Braian Cufré on the left, or tap the more attack-minded Kevin O’Toole? The 18-year-old Mitja Ilenič will likely play in place of the (slightly) injured Gray.
• Will Rodríguez be in the Starting XI? That’s the million-dollar question. We could see him coming in as a substitute, and reacquainting himself with the tempestuous physicality of MLS. We could also see Cushing stacking the deck for an NYCFC win and giving Santi the start over a Matías Pellegrini who looked uncomfortable playing out of position as the No 10.
• Chicago player availability: The Fire reportedly have six injured players, five of whom regular starters, including Designated Players Gastón Giménez and Jario Torres. In addition, defender Mauricio Pineda, defender Wyatt Omsberg, midfielder Sergio Oregel, and forward Fabian Herbers are both reportedly unavailable, although no official announcement has been made.
• Who will start in goal for Chicago now that Gaga Slonina left for Chelsea FC? It’s a mystery that will be solved only when the lineup card is released. The candidates are:
- Spencer Richey, a 30-year-old who was a starter with FC Cincinnati as recently as 2020 but who fell down the depth chart since then
- Chris Brady, an 18-year-old who made one start for Chicago last year and logged a clean sheet
- Jeffrey Gal, a 29-year-old journeyman who has been playing in the Swedish Allsvenskan
• Chicago signed striker Kei Kamara on Thursday, and the 38-year-old should bring some bite to an attack nominally led by the toothless Kacper Przybyłko. How Philadelphia Union convinced Chicago to pay $1.15 million for Przybyłko, and sign one of the least-intimidating strikers in MLS, is beyond us. Hats off to our frenemies in Chester, PA for doing good business.
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