Chicago’s start to the season went from alright to quite good after they beat D.C. United on the road last week. Far from the best or most dominating performance, the game was a close one, but the Fire were just about able to get the job done. They converted a few of their chances, and their defense held on to secure a third-straight clean sheet. There’s certainly a lot of hope and optimism currently surrounding the club, and now the team will look to keep the good times rolling with another result here.
Kansas City, meanwhile, has had a rougher beginning to their campaign. They won on opening weekend, but then they dropped their next two, with the most recent loss coming away to the Colorado Rapids. It wasn’t a good showing from Sporting, and there’s reason to worry that this current outfit may not be good enough to contend like KC usually does. A win here would go a long way in shutting up all the doubters, though.
The injuries have already started to accumulate for both sides.
Chicago could be without two key figures, as goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina and captain Rafael Czichos are listed as doubtful. There are also questions surrounding Victor Bezerra, while Carlos Terán and Andre Reynolds II are definitely going to miss out.
Things are even worse for Kansas City. Gadi Kinda, Josè Mauri, and Alan Pulido are unavailable for selection, while the likes of Uri Rosell, Johnny Russell, Daniel Salloi, and Khiry Shelton are doubts.
Chicago Fire: Slonina, Sekulić, Omsberg, Czichos, M. Navarro, Pineda, Giménez, Ivanov, Shaqiri, Herbers, Przybyłko
Sporting Kansas City: Melia, Zusi, Isimat-Mirin, Fontàs, Ndenbe, Duke, Walter, Espinoza, Russell, Vujnović, Tzionis
Ones to watch
The striker, who was acquired in the offseason, has struggled to start the campaign. It was hard to blame him too much for being invisible in the first two games, as he was adjusting to a new system, and he barely got any service throughout those contests.
That wasn’t the case last weekend, though. In his third game for the club, Przybyłko still failed to make an impact. Not involved for most of the match, he had a few chances fall his way thanks to his teammates. He couldn’t finish any of them, though, which is quite concerning since he was brought in to be a goalscorer.
Plenty of people have called for him to be benched, but doing this against Kansas City might be one game too soon. However, what is clear is that another poor performance, especially in front of his home crowd, should see him taken out of the starting 11 for the foreseeable future.
Can Przybyłko finally show everyone why Chicago made the move to bring him in during the winter? Only time will tell.
Sporting needs a hero right now. Thankfully for them, they’ve got someone who once saved an entire country.
Graham Zusi has been playing for Kansas City longer than some MLS franchises have even existed. First featuring for them in 2009, he’s been a constant presence in the lineup for 13 years, even if his role in the team has changed. Formerly a winger that flew up and down the right side, he slowly morphed into a right back due to his loss of speed and gaining of experience.
The American is still a key player for them, and that is especially true at the moment considering their current circumstances. Sporting are currently going through an injury crisis, and they could be without their entire first-choice front three.
That means that there’s going to be pressure on Zusi to get forward whenever he gets the chance. He’ll need to pick and choose his moments to do so, of course, as he’ll still have to deal with the likes of Stanislav Ivanov and Xherdan Shaqiri at the back.
If he can find a balance and make the most of his ventures into the final third, then Kansas City might have a chance. Who knows, maybe he’ll even score a goal like he did versus Panama back in 2013. It would be just as important as that one was. (It actually wouldn’t be, of course, but allow it for narrative’s sake.)
Last time out
It’s been over six months since these two sides last faced off.
Coming near the end of the 2021 campaign, Chicago carved out a very early chance when Fabian Herbers directed a header towards goal, but Tim Melia reacted quickly to get across and make the save.
That proved to be crucial since Kansas City opened the scoring moments later in the 4th minute. Ironically enough it came via a goalkeeping error, as a tame shot from José Mauri slowly rolled through the legs of Fire goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth and into the back of the net.
It would be 2-0 within six minutes. Dániel Sallói flew forward on the counter before getting a shot off that was saved by Shuttleworth. Unfortunately for the keeper, the rebound fell right to Johnny Russell, who easily converted from just a few yards out.
Both teams had chances as the game went on, but Sporting controlled proceedings, and they were ultimately able to secure the win and the three points despite failing to score a third goal on the day.
How to watch
The match kicks off at 5:00 p.m. CDT, and it will air live on WGN TV and chicagofirefc.com for fans in Chicago and on 38 The Spot and SportingKC.com for fans in Kansas City. Anyone else in the United States will be able to watch the action unfold on ESPN+.