Ahead of today’s match, we had the chance to chat with Alex Calabrese from Men in Red 97 about what we can expect from Chicago Fire!

What have been the biggest challenges for the Fire coming into this 2023 season? 

Entering the season, the Fire’s biggest concern was how they would be able to put goals in the back of the net; Jhon Durán, who broke out in 2022 with 8 goals, was sold to Aston Villa, and Kacper Przybyłko had a disappointing first season in Chicago in 2022. With six goals in the last two matches, though, this no longer seems to be the biggest problem facing the team, and the arrival of MLS veteran Kei Kamara has added much-needed experience and reliability to the #9 position.

How do you feel the Fire have been performing so far? What would you like to see improve?

The Fire have been better than expected over the last few matches. Even without Xherdan Shaqiri – who has been out for two weeks and is questionable for this weekend – the Fire’s attack has been clicking, and the center back pairing of Rafa Czichos and Carlos Terán has also been impressive. The biggest weak spot has been the midfield, which has failed to dominate games since Federico Navarro went down with a leg injury on opening day. If the midfield (most likely a double pivot of Mauricio Pineda and Gastón Giménez) can step up, the Fire will be a better team for it.

How do you expect the Fire to approach the match with D.C.? Do you have any expected lineups or tactics we should watch for?

Most likely, the Fire will lineup in a 4-2-3-1 while defending in a 4-4-2. Ezra Hendrickson will most likely look to play a patient game once again and look for opportunites to pounce in transition. A solid backline has been key to any success the team has had over the last two season, and the trio underneath the striker is a big strength. The projected starting eleven consists of Chris Brady, Miguel Ángel Navarro, Rafa Czichos, Carlos Terán, Arnaud Souquet, Mauricio Pineda, Gastón Giménez, Chris Mueller, Brian Gutiérrez, Maren Haile-Selassie, and Kei Kamara.

Who might cause D.C. trouble on the pitch on Saturday? Why?

Brian Gutiérrez has been the breakout star of this season so far for the Chicago Fire. The 19-year-old homegrown has been thriving in the #10 role underneath the striker in the absence of Xherdan Shaqiri, and has been involved in five of the Fire’s last six goals. Chris Mueller, who will likely start on the right wing, is a more well-known quantity in MLS, and will inevitably prove a threat to D.C. with his ability to take defenders on one-on-one and drive towards goal. Finally, homegrown goalkeeper Chris Brady has also had a strong start to the season since taking over from fellow homegrown, Gaga Slonina, who was sold to Chelsea over the offseason in an eight-figure transfer; Brady has shown some signs that he may even be better than Gaga.

BySarah Kallassy

Managing Editor

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