Published on February 19th, 2017 | by Jeff Engelhardt1
Chicago Fire vs Miami FC Preview
A preseason preview! It’s a chance for the team to get in regular season form as well as your’s truly. This is the first preview at Fire on Ice and we hope you’ll enjoy our style.
There are already some great previews out there, most notably Fire Confidential where the pregame focus is usually on a tactical breakdown of the opponent (you can check out this game’s preview right here).
Instead of breaking down matchups tactically, we will focus each and every preview on reasons to watch. Each match has unique storylines and we’ll do our best to highlight the aspects of each game that make us want to tune in.
So without further ado, let’s preview the Chicago Fire vs Miami FC
Chicago Fire vs Miami FC
5 p.m. — Bradenton, FL
Watch Live Stream Here
Reasons to Watch
The Chicago Fire is to the MLS preseason what the LA Galaxy is to the postseason. The Fire is legendary. They are masters at winning empty cups and igniting the most ambitious of hopes within supporters. Past preseason campaigns have turned out to be false preludes to the regular season, but this year feels different. And even if it isn’t different, it’s hard not to feel great about what the team is doing and what it could mean for 2017. Let the hope (false or not) flow over you freely.
The Fire has amassed a 3-0 record with a combined scoreline of 6-1 in a dominant preseason to this point. On paper, the competition has gradually increased in difficulty as the Fire took down Florida Gulf Coast University before taking on the Philadelphia Union and finally the Montreal Impact. But don’t be fooled. Sunday’s contest against Miami FC will be the Fire’s stiffest test to date. It’s a side that will boast more talent the Impact’s extremely experimental lineup from Wednesday and have far more motivation as NASL vs MLS always means something — no matter how small — to the lower league.
It is quickly becoming clear that anytime Nemanja Nikolic, Michael de Leeuw and David Accam share the field, it will be must-see. The trio has been dynamite in the preseason and de Leeuw especially is playing with a comfort level that was rarely seen last season. While de Leeuw was very good in 2016 and showed flashes of greatness, he was often left to play out of his comfort zone or shoulder too much of the load. With Nikolic already commanding enough respect to draw two men, de Leeuw has shown just how dangerous and smooth his movement can be off the ball.
The chemistry seems instantaneous between the three and should only grow with each passing game. It is unlikely the space they are enjoying in preseason will be available come March 4, but the fact remains that it will be a tall task to simultaneously take away the space from all three men. Give any of them an inch and they just might make magic with it.
Even if they don’t play together much Sunday, attention should also be paid to likely substitute Luis Solignac. He is quietly doing his job very well and could prove to be an important piece in 2017.
Despite how well the team is playing, there remains a significant concern about the right back position. At the moment, the spot seems to be Michael Harrington’s for the taking. There are legitimate concerns about his ability to hold down the spot, but there is also an over-eagerness to make him a scapegoat. Harrington might be capable on this team with this group of players. The challenge is to view his play with an objective eye. And then view the other players who come into play right back. And then view Miami FC’s right back. Compare and contrast.
Harrington might sink as many seem to project, but if he can play as well as he did against an admittedly toothless Impact attack last week he might slot in fine enough for this squad. The team should continue to look to upgrade the position, no doubt. But until then, keeping a close eye on the right back position will remain one of the more intriguing aspects of Fire games.
Because he can do this.
The former New York City FC man electrified MLS in 2015 before it all came to an abrupt end in June 2016 when he was shockingly moved to his current Miami FC squad. When rumors first swirled NYCFC was looking to move Poku, I was giddy with the thought of him coming to Chicago. I was shocked to see him out of MLS completely when he moved on to Miami FC.
I don’t watch much NASL so I cannot say whether the young Ghanian possesses the same flair and excitement he once did but I would have to imagine he does. He has a good enough cast around him, including some other former MLS players, to still deliver a punch. I hope Poku ends up back in MLS, but if not, I certainly will take this opportunity to watch a player who is always capable of something special.
I think Fire coach Veljko Paunovic gives his top-choice players a bit of a breather in this one and because of that the Fire end up in a 2-2 tie with a capable Miami. But in preseason there is really only one way to win and that is for everyone to end the game healthy.