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Preview and Prediction: Chicago Fire FC vs FC Cincinnati

Chicago Fire FC Defender Rafael Czichos at Soldier Field

The second match-day of the 2024 MLS season is upon us. A high-flying FC Cincinnati visit Soldier Field for an intriguing fixture against a revamped Chicago Fire.

What to Expect as Fire Take On Cincy

Chicago Fire – Current Form

It’s been a long time since the Fire were last a team to be feared in MLS, but 2024 may finally be the year. Led by manager Frank Klopas, the Fire had a very successful transfer window and backed it up with a 4-1-1 record in preseason. They faced Philadelphia Union in their official season opener last week, and played out a riveting 2-2 draw. For much of that match, Chicago looked to be the better side. The Fire were defensively sound until the final ten minutes or so and attacked efficiently. Homegrown starlet Brian Gutiérrez bossed the midfield and was involved in both goals.

If not for a complete collapse in the dying moments, the Fire would have walked away with all three points against a highly-favored opponent. This insecurity in the back line was a persistent problem in 2023. Chicago regularly dropped points from winning positions, ultimately costing them a playoff berth. Klopas’ staff will be working vigilantly to try and improve the team’s defensive consistency. In the meantime, the Fire’s attacking output will likely keep them afloat. Regardless, they will certainly view the outcome of their season opener as a point earned, whilst lamenting their mistakes.

FC Cincinnati – Current Form

2023 was a year to remember for FC Cincinnati. They were convincingly the best team in all of MLS during the regular season. The club were duly rewarded with the Supporters’ Shield, their biggest ever trophy. Cincy were eventually stopped in the conference final, where they lost to the Columbus Crew. Regardless, the last season was a historic one for a side that only joined the league in 2019.

Like the Fire, Cincinnati drew their first match of the 2024 MLS season, playing out a goalless fixture at home against Toronto FC. Also like the Fire, they seemed to mostly outplay the opposition but just couldn’t get over the line. Their disappointment at the result certainly faded by Wednesday though, when the club advanced to the second round of the Concacaf Champions Cup. Cincinnati had previously defeated Jamaican outfit Cavalier FC 2-0 away, and they finished the job in emphatic fashion. Manager Pat Noonan successfully orchestrated a 4-0 victory in the return leg to send his team through to the next round. The result is particularly impressive when considering the seven changes to the starting lineup made by Noonan from the match against Toronto.

Pre-Match Tactical Analysis

Like most early-season fixtures, this one is tough to call. There’s no doubt that Cincinnati come in as the favorites. Their squad depth is remarkable, as evidenced by their successful midweek rotation experiment. The Fire, to their credit, aren’t an easy opponent. They came in as underdogs last week and yet were just minutes away from an away victory.

With over 25,000 fans expected to pack Soldier Field, the Fire will have the support they need from the stands. In a tight contest like this one, that could prove pivotal. Furthermore, if both sides retain their formations from last week, the Fire’s four-man attack could put Cincy on the back foot. Xherdan Shaqiri is a force to be reckoned with in the no. 10 role and Fabian Herbers is in fine form, notching a goal and an assist in the season opener. Finally, with Gutierrez as a deep-lying playmaker, Cincinnati will have their hands full the whole 90 minutes.

READ MORE: Analysis: FC Cincinnati Wins Supporters’ Shield At BMO Field

That being said, the Supporters’ Shield winners are yet to concede a goal across three competitive matches this season. Long-time Cincinnati center back Ian Murphy has started in each of those matches. Throw in options such as former Chelsea player Matt Miazga and USMNT defender Miles Robinson and that back line will be a tough nut to crack for Chicago, even with the attacking prowess they have.

Chicago vs Cincinnati Prediction

There’s no fool-proof way to project the outcome of this clash, but taking a look at the clubs’ history with each other is a pretty good start. Last March, the two sides met in Chicago and settled for a 3-3 draw. Predictably, the Fire led 3-1 (one of them coming from Rafael Czichos) before conceding two goals late. Fast-forward a year and it’s not crazy to suggest a similar outcome. Chicago are likely to strike first but Cincinnati are even likelier to respond. We’ll stop short of predicting a goal-fest like last time. A 1-1 draw seems like a reasonable outcome.


Note: Fans of both teams can watch the Chicago Fire FC’s 2024 MLS season home opener at Soldier Field tomorrow at 8:30 PM ET on Apple TV – MLS Season Pass.  


Photo Credit: Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports. of a Rafael Czichos, on March 18, 2023.


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