Week 2 of the Chicago Fire’s 2017 season brings the Men In Red home to the confines of Toyota Park Saturday afternoon. After opening with a draw in chilly Columbus, Ohio, the Fire will look to collect all three points at home against Real Salt Lake. The debut of Juninho in the Fire squad holds a great interest as well as the home debut of the former Legia Warsaw striker Nemanja Nikolic.
Big Debuts and Cold Weather Expected in Chicago
Juninho missed the opening match in Columbus as he carried a one game suspension over from his previous club. Weather conditions may also be a talking point of Chicago’s home opener as temperatures are expected to only reach the high 20’s. Match officials may even consider postponing the match as was done for the New England home opener against Orlando City.
The Fire seemed pleased with the opening day point and the addition of Juninho will be a confidence boost. Opening day goalscorer David Accam’s eyes lit up talking about the new squad and the opening home game. “We have a good squad and for us this is the first game and first opportunity to do well and by the second half we really came out. And next week we have Juninho back. [Next week] is our home opener and for me I think the fans expect us to win the game and I think we will give the fans a great show.” Fire fans should be encouraged that their attacking designated player is already scoring and feeling confident.
Watch out for Chicago’s number 23
The home debut of new Fire striker Nemanja Nikolic is a performance to keep an eye on. The 29 year old Hungarian was kept off the scoresheet in Columbus after misfiring a couple shots and some miscommunications with teammates when trying combination near the box. To be fair the striker appeared to be playing good passes with teammates not anticipating the play. The addition of the Brazilian midfielder should improve the linkup play to Nikolic. The Fire showed in Columbus that they can get upfield very quickly but didn’t produce many chances.
Hobbled Salt Lake
Real Salt Lake come into Toyota Park on the back of a draw themselves, a scoreless one at home to Toronto. RSL’s squad is an unknown quantity as four players were listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report. In addition another big question mark on this Salt Lake side is age as their squad features seven players over 30 years of age and their talisman goalkeeper Nick Rimando is now 37. This match could really have any outcome and the play could well be inhibited by inclement weather. The Fire hold a narrow edge historically between the two clubs. Chicago’s all time record agaisnt RSL sits at 6-5-7 and 3-3-4 at Toyota Park
Which Fire will we see
Trying to make a prediction in this matchup seems a tough task. The Fire had a mixed performance in the opening match. The first half was poor and Veljko Paunovic’s men were lucky to only concede once. In Dax McCarty’s words the Fire “flipped the script” on Columbus, equalizing and appearing a much stronger side in the second half. While the visitors may or may not be without playmaker Joao Plata and four other players.