Welcome to Matchday 34, the last match of the regular season for a New York City FC team with a chance to still walk out of Decision Day with a spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs. To do that, NYCFC must beat the Chicago Fire — who also need a win or, more complicatedly, a draw if they are to qualify for the postseason. Both teams have everything to play for tonight at Citi Field: Here is your NYCFC vs Chicago Fire Game Day Hub.
Game Day Essentials
- Matchday 34: NYCFC vs Chicago Fire
- Date and Time: Saturday, October 21, 6:00 pm ET
- Kickoff Time: 6:09 pm ET
- Venue: Citi Field
- Forecast: Overcast and windy, 59˚F/15˚C
- Kits: NYCFC in Interboro blue, Chicago Fire in navy with hints of red
- Watch: Apple TV
- Apple Broadcast Team: Chris Wittyngham and Lori Lindsey
- Listen: English and Spanish broadcasts on NYCFC Radio
- Officiating Crew: Allen Chapman (referee), Cameron Blanchard and Micheal Barwegen (assistant referees), Alex Chilowicz (fourth official), Kevin Stott (VAR), Claudiu Badea (assistant VAR)
NYCFC vs Chicago Fire preview
Both teams need to get results and to also get help elsewhere on Decision Day if they are to qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs.
NYCFC must win, then also needs the Red Bulls to lose away to Nashville SC and for Charlotte FC to earn no better than a draw at home against Inter Miami CF (and potentially a returning Lionel Messi).
Chicago need a win and for either the Red Bulls or CF Montréal to drop points to grab a playoff spot, though they could also qualify by holding NYCFC to a draw, as long as the Red Bulls lose and Charlotte FC doesn’t win.
Prior to the international break, the Fire and New York City suffered matching 2-0 defeats that severely wounded their playoff hopes. NYCFC looked lifeless and again not up to the challenge of winning on the road while falling 0-2 to DC United. Chicago suffered a costly home loss to an up-and-down Charlotte team and went from potentially controlling their own playoff destiny to needing a hand from another Eastern Conference team to earn postseason soccer.
Will either team be up to the challenge of grabbing a vital three points? Or will NYCFC draw for an almost incomprehensible 15th and final time this season?
NYCFC vs Chicago Fire H2H
NYCFC have never lost at home to the Fire and have beaten them in three different “home” stadiums all-time, with all three New York City defeats suffered out in Bridgeview, Illinois, the Chicago club’s former suburban home.
The reverse fixture was the season-opener for Chicago back in early March, and Nick Cushing’s team had a lead through a Gabriel Pereira goal after 39 minutes at Soldier Field, but allowed a 75th-minute equalizer and settled for their first draw (of many).
- Player Availability: Richy Ledezma is out due to an ankle injury. Maxi Moralez and Alfredo Morales also remain out. Tayvon Gray suffered a hamstring injury while on international duty with Jamaica, but Nick Cushing says he trained on Thursday and didn’t rule him out due to the injury.
- Talles Magno again made it onto the MLS 22 Under 22 list of the league’s best young players. Will the young Brazilian Designated Player be in Nick Cushing’s Starting XI on Decision Day, and can he make a positive impact to finish out what was a tough regular season?
- New York City have won just seven home matches this season, their lowest total since back in 2016 when they won eight times at Yankee Stadium. Their lowest number of home wins in a season was six back in the inaugural 2015 season, the last time the team didn’t qualify for the playoffs.
- Fitting that this final home match is taking place at Citi Field days after the NYCFC stadium planned for across the street officially entered New York City’s public land review process.
- If NYCFC win and get all the help they need to qualify as the 9th playoff seed in the Eastern Conference, they’ll travel north of the border to face CF Montréal on Wednesday, October 25 or Thursday, October 26.
- Grabbing that final playoff berth might not be in the cards, and it if it isn’t, NYCFC will embark on a long offseason that will feature a number of important dates and big decisions.
- Player Availability: Gaston Gimenez is suspended due to yellow card accumulation, while Chris Mueller, Victor Bezerra, Mauricio Pineda, Jairo Rodriguez are out injured.
- Xherdan Shaqiri is the third highest-earning player in MLS ($8.15M guaranteed compensation) according to that latest batch of MLS player salary data shared this week. The Swiss international hasn’t been a huge difference-maker for Chicago, with seven non-penalty goals (12 goals total) and 11 assists across 56 regular season matches to date across his two seasons in MLS.
- Goalkeeper Chris Brady and midfielder Brian Gutiérrez were both also on that MLS 22 Under 22 list, and both are returning from international duty with the United States U-23 team as they look to make the roster the US will send to next summer’s Olympics. They’re both also called out as X-factor players to watch in our Oppo Research: 5 Things about the Chicago Fire.
- Frank Klopas wasn’t the head coach when these teams met back in March, but he took over after the team fired Ezra Hendrickson after a rough first 10 matches this season. Klopas has gone 8 W-5 D-10 L while at the helm this season, his second stint in charge of the Fire, a team he also played for back in 1998 and 1999.
- Chicago haven’t qualified for the MLS Cup Playoffs since 2017, so they will be looking to end a lengthy playoff drought by doing something they’ve never done: Winning away at New York City.