Published on February 22nd, 2017 | by Jeff Engelhardt1
Chicago Fire vs FC Cincinnati Preview
Chicago Fire vs FC Cincinnati
3 p.m., Bradenton, Fla.
Watch Stream Here
The Chicago Fire head into their penultimate preseason game Wednesday looking to extend their exhibition record to a perfect 5-0 as they take on USL side FC Cincinnati.
The Men in Red are coming off a scintillating 5-2 victory over Miami FC that featured bright spots from both the veterans and young players fighting for a spot. The impressive victory probably has most supporters salivating to see the Fire participate in a game with higher stakes, but there is still business with FC Cincinnati — and Toronto FC on Saturday — to tend to.
Wednesday’s preseason match should provide a longer look at some of the fringe players and trialists vying for a spot. Former Columbus Crew man Chad Barson has joined camp in hopes of laying claim to a wide open right back spot. Should he get playing time Wednesday, he will want to leave a mark as the arrival of former Newcastle United man Ryan Taylor looms large.
Unsigned draft picks Matej Dekovic and Brandt Bronico continue to play for a contract. Both Dekovic, a center back, and Bronico, a midfielder, have had serviceable performances throughout preseason and could both end up inking with the Fire by the end of the week.
While the matchup does lack sizzle, one reason to tune in should be for Nemanja Nikolic if he gets time. Nikolic uncharacteristically missed a couple opportunities in the 5-2 victory against Miami and, according to accounts of Nikolic’s competitive drive and insatiable hunger for goals, that should be enough to motivate him to find the back of the net.
I will also be keeping an eye of midfielder Drew Conner who set the Internet on fire with his outstanding run that led to the David Accam goal against Miami. It would be great to see an encore performance from the Cary, Ill., native.
On the other side, USL foe FC Cincinnati will look to build an identity under new coach Alan Koch, who replaced American soccer legend John Harkes. It was a shocking dismissal for a team that took third-place in USL last year. Maybe Harkes wanted to spend more time watching his kid tear it up at D.C. United this year.
On the field, FC Cincy features former Fire man Austin Berry. As you may recall, Berry enjoyed his finest professional season in his rookie year in 2012, winning MLS Rookie of the Year as a member of the Fire. HIs career has since sputtered after being traded to Philadelphia in 2014. He suffered an injury that ended his opportunity with the Union, went to South Korea and now resides in the USL.
It will be interesting to see Berry play again and is another reason to make some time for the 3 p.m kickoff Wednesday. Former Chicago player Corben Bone is also on the team.
Prediction: Fire win 3-1
It has become clear that this is a team that can score goals. Even with an expected lineup of trialists and fringe players, the team should have the firepower to find the net fairly often in this one. I’m ready for the regular season.