FC Cincinnati will be on ‘alert’ when playing Fire originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
FC Cincinnati head coach Pat Noonan has called on his players to be “really alert” at Soldier Field on Saturday, as it is difficult to know what to expect from Chicago Fire FC.
The Fire started the season strongly with a 1-1 draw against New York City FC, before suffering a last-minute loss at the Philadelphia Union after having two players sent off.
As the only side yet to have played three games in the Eastern Conference, the Fire are languishing near the bottom of the division, and Noonan expects them to be fully motivated.
“This is a challenging one because of the fact that they’ve already had a bye, so you only have two games to look at,” Noonan said. “But on top of that, they had two red cards in the last game, on top of some of the injuries early on. There’s just a lot of uncertainty, plus they play two different formations.
“We just have to be really alert early on because in a lot of ways, we’re not sure what the starting group is going to look like or the formation.”
Cincinnati has taken seven points from its first three games, with wins over the Houston Dynamo and Seattle Sounders sandwiching a 0-0 draw at Orlando City.
Chicago, therefore, faces a big task in getting off the mark this weekend, with the challenge made all the more difficult by injuries and suspensions.
“We don’t like it and would prefer to be at full tilt,” head coach Ezra Hendrickson said. “These are very important games coming up for us.
“Playing against New York and Philadelphia really set the stage as we were playing the top teams. It’s going to be a tough test up next, but we’re at home and we’re expected to win these games.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Chicago – Rafael Czichos
– Cincinnati was unable to find the net in its last road game and Chicago will look to make life as tough as possible for its opponent in the final third.
Center back Czichos led the way against Philadelphia with three tackles, maintaining his perfect tackle-success record this campaign with a perfect five from five.
Cincinnati – Brenner
Brazilian forward Brenner scored the winning goal against Seattle last time out, with that being his 24th regular-season goal for Cincinnati. That is level in the club’s all-time list of scorers in terms of non-penalty goals alongside Brandon Vazquez, a record in which he could break this weekend.
MATCH PREDICTION – DRAW
– Cincinnati is level with Atlanta United and Nashville SC at the top of the early Eastern Conference standings and has lost just one of its past 23 regular-season matches.
– Chicago has made a slower start, not helped by some ill discipline, and has won just one of its past seven league games at Soldier Field.
– The Fire did hold NYCFC recently, however, and this has been an evenly matched fixture since Cincinnati joined the league, with the teams sharing three wins and two draws. Those points towards another tight game.
OPTA WIN PROBABILITY
Chicago – 49.8 percent
Cincinnati – 23.4 percent
Draw – 26.8 percent