Chicago Fire vs FC Cincinnati preview: How to watch, kick-off time, team news, predicted lineups, and ones to watch
Photo via FC Cincinnati

Two Midwestern MLS rivals face off on Saturday night as the Chicago Fire hosts FC Cincinnati at Soldier Field.

Chicago lost a heartbreaker last time out. Traveling to the Philadelphia Union, the Fire switched things up and focused entirely on the defensive side of the ball. It was working, as they frustrated the opposition all night, even after they had a man sent off at the start of the second half. However, a goalkeeping error in the final few moments cost Chicago a goal, and it ultimately cost them the result. They’ve only picked up a point from their opening two matches, and a loss here could lead to sheer panic from the fanbase.

The feeling is a lot better in Cincinnati. They secured a massive win last weekend, beating the Seattle Sounders at home. That continued their unbeaten start to the campaign, and they’re only one of three Eastern Conference teams to earn seven points from their first three contests. It’s been a lovely beginning, and they’ll hope to keep the good times rolling on this occasion.

Team news

Chicago will be without a bunch of key players for different reasons. Jairo Torres and Federico Navarro are both hurt, while Fabian Herbers and Kei Kamara are unavailable due to suspension after being sent off against Philadelphia. The scariest thing for them is that Xherdan Shaqiri is also a doubt with an upper leg issue, which forced him off early last week.

It’s a similar story for Cincinnati, but not as bad. Yuya Kubo will miss out due to injury, while Nick Hagglund is suspended for the contest. 

Predicted lineups

Chicago Fire: Brady, Souquet, Terán, Czichos, Burks, M. Navarro, Pineda, Giménez, Gutiérrez, Bezerra, Mueller

FC Cincinnati: Celentano, Gaddis, Murphy, Miazga, Mosquera, Barreal, Nwobodo, Moreno, Acosta, Brenner, Vazquez

Ones to watch

Chris Brady
The spotlight was already somewhat on Chris Brady last weekend, and it’ll certainly be on him this time around.

He missed out on opening day due to injury, which meant that he had to wait until week two to make his much-anticipated season debut. The goalkeeper did start a game last campaign, but that was at the very end of the year in a game that didn’t matter.

This time was different. Brady was now the new number 1, taking over from the departed Gabriel Slonina. He was the guy, and a lot of people were excited to see how well he’d do.

Things were going well for the 19-year-old early on. He admittedly didn’t have to do much during the contest, but he dealt with the few moments of danger that came his way. His awareness was especially impressive, as he was coming off his line quickly to clear away long balls in behind, and he’d always be back in the right position in time for the next attack.

However, disaster struck in stoppage time. A shot was hit towards Brady, and he tried to get behind the ball, but he instead let it fly right past him. There was a mess of bodies in front of him, but it wasn’t nearly enough of an issue to hinder his eyesight that much. He just misjudged the flight of the effort, and it cost his team a potentially important result.

It was a horrific moment, and now all eyes will be on him to see how he responds. Now, anyone that knows the United States youth international understands that he’ll almost certainly be fine in the long run. Then again, another slip-up this weekend could spell trouble, and it could open the door for Spencer Richey, who was brilliant week one, to take over in goal.

For the Fire’s sake, and Brady’s sake, hopefully that isn’t the case.

Brandon Vazquez
Brandon Vazquez wants it, with “it” being a number of different things. 

He wants to prove that last season was no fluke. The striker came out of almost nowhere to light up MLS, scoring 18 goals while also providing 8 assists over the course of the campaign. That led to some believing that he’d get a call up for the World Cup, but that never came to be.

That leads to what he wants next, and that is to become a consistent presence for the United States men’s national team. He missed the World Cup, but he was selected for a set of friendlies after the tournament, and he did score in one of those appearances. The USMNT still haven’t found their starting striker of the future, and Vazquez hopes that he can be that guy.

While he’s still completely focused on his current club, he still wants to earn a move abroad. There were some rumors linking him with a transfer this past offseason, but Cincinnati held firm and kept him for at least another year. They want to succeed with him, and another strong showing would only increase his value. That made sense, but it might just be a matter of time until the player departs for greener pastures.

However, Vazquez has yet to get going this campaign. His team is doing well, and he’s played a part in that, but he’s been shut out in each of his first three games. That’s not too much of a concern for now, but Cincy knows that they’ll need him scoring at a high level if they want any chance of being a legit threat come the end of the season. He also realizes that he has to start finding the back of the net soon if he wants to achieve any of his current goals and future ones.

If Chicago is as solid this week at the back as they were last weekend, then the forward will have a tough night ahead of him. However, a goal or two at Soldier Field could kick him right back into gear, setting up an exciting 2023 for himself and Cincinnati.

Last time out

Even though the last meeting between these two sides came near the end of last year, it was still a heated affair.

Chicago, who had already been eliminated from playoff contention, traveled to Cincinnati, who were still fighting for their spot in the postseason. The two sides came into the contest in contrasting form, but it was the struggling Fire who managed to pick up the win against the odds. 

An even contest early on, the opening goal came in the 56th minute. Chicago hit on the counter, with Brian Gutiérrez playing Jhon Durán through on goal. He made the most of the opportunity, slamming a shot into the back of the net from close range.

It was 2-0 moments later. Gutiérrez turned from provider to scorer, as he flew forward on the break before receiving a pass, settling himself, and placing a low strike into the bottom corner. 

The Fire shockingly made it three with 15 minutes to go, and it was the same pairing that made the first goal who created this one. Gutiérrez dinked a ball over the top to a streaking Durán, and he got to it before the onrushing goalkeeper, lobbing him to grab his second of the night in spectacular fashion.

That seemed to put the match to bed, but Cincinnati didn't go down without a fight, both figuratively and literally. Luciano Acosta pulled one back right after Chicago’s third, and then Brandon Vazquez grabbed a goal with a few minutes to go.

The home side sent bodies forward in search of a late equalizer, but instead of a late goal they found a late red card. A scuffle broke out near the very end of the match, and Sérgio Santos was sent off for his role in proceedings.

A final shot from Álvaro Barreal rolled just wide, which meant that the Fire had done enough to secure an impressive, and very funny, victory.

How to watch

The match kicks off at 7:30 pm central time, and it will air live on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.