Chicago Fire: 3 things to watch for in MLS return

Chicago Fire (Photo by Timothy Bouwer/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
Chicago Fire (Photo by Timothy Bouwer/ISI Photos/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Fire
Chicago Fire (Photo by Timothy Bouwer/ISI Photos/Getty Images) /

With the Chicago Fire ready to make their long-awaited return to the field, here are three things to watch for ahead of the MLS is Back Tournament.

After close to four months away, the Chicago Fire are finally set to return to action. The coronavirus pandemic had shut their 2020 season down after only two games, with the Men In Red’s last contest coming all the way back in early March. Health and safety regulations in the country have prevented any sort of sporting events from taking place ever since, but supporters are now only a week away from seeing their favorite team back on the field.

The MLS is Back Tournament kicks off on July 8th, with the Fire featuring on opening night against expansion side Nashville SC. With so much time taking place since they’ve last played a competitive game, fans aren’t exactly sure what to expect from the Men In Red. However, there is certainly a lot to keep an eye on ahead of their return.

Here are three things to watch for ahead of the Chicago Fire’s return.

Chicago Fire, Ignacio Aliseda
Argentina’s Defensa y Justicia midfielder Ignacio Aliseda (L) celebrates after scoring against Argentina’s Banfield during their Copa Sudamericana round of sixteen second leg football match at Florencio Sola stadium in Banfield, Argentina on September 27 , 2018. (Photo by JAVIER GONZALEZ TOLEDO / AFP) (Photo credit should read JAVIER GONZALEZ TOLEDO/AFP via Getty Images) /

3. How will the new guys fit in?

During the regular season, the Chicago Fire were not at full strength. A number of their recent offseason signings weren’t able to take to the field as visa issues meant they missed the first two games of the campaign. Even those who did come in were only able to make brief cameos off the bench.

That won’t be a problem anymore. Gaston Gimenez made his club debut against the New England Revolution in the last game before the break, and even though he only played 27 minutes, he proved why he can be so valuable. He instantly controlled the midfield, making defensive stops at the back before pushing forward and making some sublime passes. Gimenez will be key for Chicago during the tournament, especially from the start.

Then there is Ignacio Aliseda, who had arrived in the country in time for the season but wasn’t used due to a lack of first-team training with the club. He’s been reportedly very impressive in practice ever since and should be ready to go for the restart. Dynamic and dangerous on the wing, Aliseda will be a nightmare for opposing MLS defenses.

The European pairing of Luka Stojanovic and Boris Sekulic had only come to the United States moments before the pandemic hit, which has made adapting to their new homes very tough. They’ve had plenty of time since to get used to their new surroundings off the field, which should help them acclimate on the field. Stojanovic will bring crucial depth to the midfield, while Sekulic should be a needed addition to the backline, which struggled early on.

If the Fire want any hope of finding success in the tournament, they’ll need the new boys to be at their best.