MLS just refuses to stop at the moment, and this week is no different. There’s another full slate of midweek encounters, and one will take place at Soldier Field on Wednesday night as the Chicago Fire hosts NYCFC.
Chicago had a very solid weekend, picking up a point on the road against the Philadelphia Union. What was especially impressive is that they secured the result despite playing down a man for the entirety of the second half, as defender Wyatt Omsberg was sent off a bit before the break. It was one of the Fire’s better performances this season, and they almost managed to steal a win on the afternoon. If they can play like that this time around, then they might just end up taking away all three points from the contest.
NYCFC, meanwhile, are flying high. They’ve won three straight, and they’ve won their last two in some style, beating Orlando City 5-0 and the Columbus Crew 4-1. New York City are firing on all cylinders going forward, and they’re currently the second highest scorers in all of MLS. Up against one of the worst defences in the entire league, they’ll fancy their chances of scoring even more in this contest.
Chicago will be without a few players for the game. The likes of Miguel Navarro, Kenneth Kronholm, Carlos Terán, Elliot Collier, and Javier Casas Jr. are all injured, while Wyatt Omsberg and Fabian Herbers are both suspended.
Chicago Fire: Shuttleworth, Kappelhof, Pineda, Calvo, Sekulić, Frankowski, Giménez, Medrán, Bornstein, Aliseda, Berić
NYCFC: Barraza, Tinnerholm, Chanot, Callens, Thórarinsson, Morales, Parks, Moralez, Medina, Thiago, Castellanos
Ones to watch
Chinonso Offor, who led the line in his place, wasn’t too bad against the Union, but he failed to make a real impact on proceedings. His team going down to 10 men didn’t help, of course, but fans were hoping to see more from him. He was eventually subbed off for Berić in the 64th minute, which was an indictment on how his match went.
Now, it’s likely that Chicago’s Designated Player will be back in the lineup against NYCFC. It’d be a second chance of sorts for him, and he’ll be under pressure to make the most of it.
In simplest terms, Berić has been bad this season. He’s only scored twice, and one of those goals came in the opening five minutes of the campaign. His poor play goes beyond the scoresheet as well. He’s missed a number of chances already, he often strays offside, and he sometimes disappears during games.
It’s been a staggering turnaround compared to last year. Coming to the Fire in the offseason, the Slovenian was especially elite down the final stretch, scoring in 10 of the team's last 13 games. Everything was going well, and it seemed like he was going to be the main man for the future.
That’s no longer the case. If Berić can’t improve soon, then the club may have no other choice than to look elsewhere. He’ll have a tough test ahead of him against New York City, but a goal or two could really kick-start his and Chicago’s seasons.
An attacker who is doing very well is Valentín Castellanos, and he’ll look to add to his goalscoring tally on Wednesday.
Castellanos had a dream start to the campaign, scoring in each of NYCFC’s first four games. He went quiet for a few months, but it seems like he’s back to his best, as he’s grabbed a goal in the team’s last two matches as well.
An incredibly smooth and silky player, the Argentine is just so talented. He’s great on the ball, able to dribble past defenders or pick out teammates with killer passes in the final third. He’s also a better finisher than you would expect, as he can score in a number of different ways from a number of different positions.
He’s almost the complete package. What’s especially impressive about Castellanos is that he’s only 22-years-old. He’s got a lot more growing to do in New York City, and it’s scary to think how good he’ll be when he’s in his prime. As a result, it might only be a matter of time until he makes a big money move elsewhere.
For now, he’s still with NYCFC, who will hope that he can continue his stellar run of form with another superb showing versus Chicago.
Last time out
These two sides haven’t faced off this year, with their most recent meeting coming on the final weekend of last season.
The first half was an incredibly hectic one, as six goals were scored during it. NYCFC went up 2-0 to start, as Alexander Callens headed home a corner before Gary Mackay-Steven converted on the counter.
However, all that effort would be for naught, as NYCFC grabbed the winner in the 77th minute. A horrendous turnover from Miguel Navarro in his own third gave the ball right to Valentín Castellanos, and he made the most of the mistake, placing a first-time shot into the bottom corner.
That result ended up eliminating Chicago from playoff contention, which is what made the loss that much more painful for them.
How to watch
The match kicks off at 7:00 p.m. CST, and it will air on WGN TV and chicagofirefc.com for fans in Chicago and on the YES Network and the YES app for fans in New York City. Anyone else in the United States will be able to watch the action unfold on ESPN+.