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Keys to the Match | Step In 

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New York City FC are back on the road this weekend as they take on the Chicago Fire.

Kickoff at Soldier Field is set for 8:30PM ET.

Here are the Keys to the Match, Presented by Ford…

History

Saturday’s clash will be the 21st meeting between the two sides in MLS, with New York City FC boasting the better record.

One of City’s most memorable clashes came early in Club history when a 4-3 classic played out in Chicago. The game kicked off with a brilliant curled effort from Tommy McNamara, with all four of City’s goals on the day representing a moment of quality.

More recently, City have found consistent success against the Fire, and find themselves unbeaten in their last five meetings, both home and away. The Boys in Blue finished the 2023 regular season with a visit from Chicago, a day on which Julián Fernández’s brilliant solo effort separated the two sides.

Cushing will hope that history can serve as momentum going into this weekend and deliver City another memorable trip to the Windy City.

Switch Up

The Fire are coached by Frank Klopas.

A former player with the U.S. Men’s National Team, Klopas finished his playing with the Fire, helping them lift their maiden MLS Cup trophy in 1998.

The 57-year-old was appointed on a full-time basis after serving as interim head coach last season. Typically preferring 4-2-3-1, he has in recent weeks switched this to a back three, with improving results.

Although the Fire lost last time out against the San Jose Earthquakes, they recorded a spirited 4-3 victory against the Philadelphia Union in the game before that. Klopas was suspended for the game against San Jose but will be back in the dugout this weekend when City visit.

The Fire boast quality in central areas with Kellyn Acosta and Brian Gutiérrez both offering a goal threat from the middle of the park. In the final third, Chris Mueller is a man to be watched, while the Fire’s star man is Belgian forward Hugo Cuypers.

The 27-year-old joined from Gent in his homeland and currently has nine goals and one assist in 22 games this season. Six of those nine goals have arrived in his last seven games, meaning City will need to limit the striker’s space in the box in order to stop him from adding to that tally during their visit.

Step In

As discussed in Five Points, City were forced to wrestle with several unexpected injuries both before and during the game with Austin FC.

Head Coach Nick Cushing will likely provide updates on the health status of those players when he speaks to the media later this week. Regardless of whether they can make the trip or not, Cushing knows he can rely on the rest of the squad to step in.

Personified by Justin Haak’s performance against Austin, the midfielder slotted into left back and was able to contribute in both penalty boxes during his appearance. That commitment and show of character to step in, regardless of circumstance, and perform will be needed when City make the tricky trip to the Windy City.

You’re not facing 11 of us, you’re facing all of us.

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