NYCFC vs Chicago Fire preview: How to watch, kick-off time, team news, predicted lineups, and ones to watch
Photo by @ChicagoFire on Twitter

An Eastern Conference clash with potentially massive playoff implications takes place on Wednesday night as NYCFC hosts the Chicago Fire at Yankee Stadium.

This game is obviously a huge one for NYCFC. They’re in the thick of the playoff race in the East, currently sat in 5th. It’s far from a comfortable position, though, as they’re only one point ahead of 8th place CF Montréal. New York City did regain some confidence after smashing D.C. United 6-0 this past weekend, and they’ll look to build upon that result with another win here.

On the other hand, this contest could not matter less for Chicago. They’ve long since been eliminated from postseason contention, and they're now just kind of vibing with interim head coach Frank Klopas until the end of the campaign. That mentality has led to some decent showings, though, and they’ve picked up seven points from their last three matches in the process. Can they keep the good times rolling here? Only time will tell.

Team news

Neither team is dealing with too many absences going into this game.

NYCFC will be without Nicolás Acevedo, who is dealing with a lower-body issue, while Anton Tinnerholm has been sidelined for the foreseeable future due to a ruptured Achilles, so he won’t be able to feature either.

For Chicago, meanwhile, it’s more of the same, as the likes of Francisco Calvo, Kenneth Kronholm, and Carlos Terán will miss out once again.

Predicted lineups

NYCFC: Johnson, Sands, Chanot, Callens, Amundsen, Morales, Parks, Thiago, Moralez, Rodríguez, Castellanos

Chicago Fire: Slonina, Sekulić, Pineda, Bornstein, M. Navarro, Giménez, F. Navarro, Medrán, Herbers, Berić, Aliseda

Ones to watch

Valentín Castellanos
Big time players make big time players, and it’s time for Valentín Castellanos to prove that he’s a big time player.

Going into this weekend, the Argentine was in a poor run of form. He hadn’t scored in any of his last four appearances, and his performances affected the team as NYCFC didn’t win any of those games. They continued to slide down the table as a result, and it was starting to look like they were going to somehow miss the playoffs.

Both the player and the club needed to turn things around, but luckily for them, that may have happened versus D.C. United. New York ran riot on the night, as they scored six, with Castellanos scoring twice himself. It was the exact sort of showing that should inject everyone with confidence going forward, especially the man they call Taty.

Now, he has to prove that he’s a top-tier striker in this league. He’s had a remarkable campaign, grabbing 15 goals while dishing out seven assists as well. However, the jury is still out when it comes to him in the biggest games. He just hasn’t really delivered when it matters most so far, but that could all change by the end of this year.

That starts with a solid shift here. If anyone’s going to get NYCFC into the postseason and then carry them once it starts, it’s likely going to be Castellanos.

Robert Berić
This is getting a little funny.

Over the course of the last month, Robert Berić has been one of the best forwards in MLS. He’s scored five goals over the course of his last five games, and his performances have been a key reason for Chicago’s quality results as of late.

On the surface, that should be a good thing. Seeing a striker score consistently down the final stretch of the season, even when the games don’t really matter, is usually a positive sign for the future. However, this situation is a bit more complicated.

Berić’s turnaround has only come because the matches have lost meaning. When it mattered earlier in the campaign, he was woeful. He missed big chances, and he didn’t bring much to the table when it came to the team’s build-up play either. As a result, all signs indicated that the club would be moving on from him at the end of the year.

That still should happen, of course, and it probably will. However, the Fire have made plenty of stupid decisions over the course of the last decade, and it wouldn’t be too shocking to see them keep the Designated Player after this relatively worthless purple patch.

In the spirit of narrative, though, let's hope he scores three.

Last time out

It’s been almost exactly a month since these two sides last faced off.

Taking place at Chicago’s former home of SeatGeek Stadium, the contest was far from a thrilling one. Both sides had half-chances in the first half, but neither managed to break the deadlock early on.

Things changed at the start of the second half when the Fire jumped in front. Coming courtesy of a clever set-piece, Álvaro Medrán played a through ball to Robert Berić instead of whipping in a free-kick into the area. That decision paid off handsomely, as the forward buried the chance with a low shot into the bottom corner.

They then doubled their advantage about 20 minutes later through Federico Navarro, whose shot took a deflection before somehow sneaking past the goalkeeper and into the back of the net.

NYCFC tried to get back into the contest, and they even had a goal called back for offside at one point, but their efforts were for naught as the hosts held on to the win, the clean sheet, and the three points.

How to watch

The match kicks off at 7:30 p.m. EST, and it will air live on the YES Network and the YES app for fans in New York City and on WGN TV and for fans in Chicago. Anyone else in the United States will be able to watch the action unfold on ESPN+.