Five Things presented by Children’s Mercy Sports Medicine Center: Sporting to take on Chicago Fire at Soldier Field | March 19, 2022

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"Five Things"_ is a season-long series presented by the_ Children's Mercy Sports Medicine Center that highlights the top storylines and players to watch ahead of each match. To visit the series archive, click here.

After a loss on the road to Colorado, Sporting Kansas City (1-2-0, 3 points) will attempt to extinguish Chicago Fire FC (1-0-2, 5 points) Saturday, at Soldier Field. The match is set for 5 p.m. CT and will be broadcast on 38 The Spot and is available to stream at and in the Sporting KC mobile app through Sporting One.

Sporting and the Fire took the field against one another as recently as last September with Sporting grabbing two goals within the first six minutes of the match and holding on to win 2-0.

Here are five storylines to keep an eye on as Sporting faces the Fire in the windy city.

1. Sporting’s recent success against Chicago

Historically, Sporting has struggled against the Fire. Chicago has bested Sporting on 26 occasions in MLS regular season play, the second most of any MLS club (28 losses to FC Dallas). Sporting has a 5-18-3 record in Chicago, last winning there in 2018 in a 4-3 goal-fest at Toyota Park. Sporting and the Fire’s Saturday showdown at Soldier Field will mark just the second meeting at the historic landmark since 2005.

Despite the historic struggles against the Fire, Sporting has enjoyed a bounty of success against the Fire in recent years. Sporting has lost to the fire just once in the last 10 meetings (7-1-2), with the lone loss in that span coming in July 2016. The last time these two played at Soldier Field, Sporting came home with a point after a 2-2 draw. Sporting also holds the 2000 MLS Cup Finals win against the Fire over their heads.

2. International Call Up

This FIFA international window presents some intrigue as the U.S. Men’s National Team finishes up their Concacaf World Cup Qualifying campaign looking for a spot in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. On a more personal, Sporting KC side of things, newcomer Marinos Tzionis will represent the Cyprus Men's national team during a UEFA Nations League Series against Estonia. At just 20-years-old, the winger has already been capped for Cyprus’ senior team on 13 occasions.

Cyprus MNT Match Schedule

  • Thursday, March 24 at Estonia | 12 p.m. CT | A. Le Coq Arena | Tallinn, Estonia
  • Tuesday, March 29 vs. Estonia | 11 a.m. CT | AEK Arena | Larnaca, Cyprus

3. Fire finds new forwards

Last season, the Fire finished 12th in the Eastern Conference and tied for second to last with just 36 goals scored. This offseason, first-year head coach Ezra Hendrickson and the Fire front office set out to address their offensive woes. In comes Champions League winner and fifth-most capped Swiss national team attacker Xherdan Shaqiri. Kacper Przybylko also joined Chicago this offseason after accumulating 35 goals and 14 assists in 86 MLS appearances with the Philadelphia Union.

So far this season the Fire have scored just two goals, both in their win at D.C. United last weekend. While Shaqiri and Przybylko have yet to get on the scorers' sheet in 2022, they are two dangerous players and focal points of the Fire offense.

4. Chicago’s sturdy defense

Although the Fire have scored just twice this season, they are the only team in MLS not to concede a goal through the first three weeks this season. They opened the 2022 season with back-to-back scoreless draws against Inter Miami and Orlando City SC respectively. Highlighting the Fire’s backline are Wyatt Omsberg and Rafael Czichos. The tandem ranks third and fourth in MLS in defensive clearances with Omsberg having 22 to Czichos 21.

Anchoring the defense for Chicago is 17-year-old goalkeeper Gaga Slonina who has three clean sheets and eight saves this season. Slonina has already been called up to the U.S. Men’s National Team but has not been capped by the team yet. Slonina was also featured in the week three MLS Team of the week on the bench with Omsberg earning a spot in the starting XI of the team of the week.

5. New kids on the block

Due to a spur of injuries, Sporting KC had the opportunity to display some fresh faces last Saturday in Colorado. After joining the club earlier in the week, Montenegrin striker Nikola Vujnovic made his debut for Sporting Kansas City at striker. Also included in the list of Saturday’s debutants was Kortne Ford. The Olathe native’s Sporting MLS debut was also a homecoming as he played four seasons with Colorado after signing with the Rapids as a homegrown. Last Saturday, Ben Sweat also made his Sporting KC debut coming on as a sub, and Kayden Pierre made his MLS debut after appearing in the 2021 Leagues Cup match last season.