Well-rested and looking for a franchise-record fourth consecutive road victory, New York City FC also seeks to run its unbeaten streak to eight matches Saturday when it faces the Chicago Fire.
NYCFC (4-6-1) have been idle since a 2-0 victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy on May 11, their fourth win in five matches. New York City FC has conceded just one goal in that stretch and carries a 252-minute shutout streak into this contest. The only other time NYCFC have won three straight league road matches in club history was from June 6-July 4, 2015, in their inaugural season.
“I take pride in that, keeping the ball out of the back of the net,” goalkeeper Sean Johnson told the league’s official website. “I think for the last four games we’ve been really, really good, both home and on the road, and we have to have that mentality. And now that we’ve set that bar, there’s another level for us to achieve, and everybody’s hungry.”
The Bronx Blues have never had an eight-game, single-season unbeaten streak, though they did have one spanning the 2017 and 2018 seasons. The current seven-match run equals the club record from March 4-April 15, 2018, when they went 5-0-2.
New York City FC’s offense is paced by Heber and Maximiliano Moralez, who both scored in the win over the Galaxy. Heber, who joined the club five games into the season from Croatian side Rijeka, has three goals and two assists in seven matches while Moralez has a pair of goals and a team-best four assists.
Chicago (4-4-5) had its three-match unbeaten run halted last Saturday with a 4-1 defeat at San Jose. The Fire sorely missed the marshaling ability of suspended defender Bastian Schweinsteiger as their 291-minute shutout streak came to end when Chris Wondolowski equaled Landon Donovan’s MLS all-time goals record in the 21st minute and then passed him with a second-half hat trick.
The Fire players were eager to move on after matching their worst defensive showing of the year and return home, where they are 4-0-1 in their last five matches while outscoring opponents 13-2.
“This was a good test before the next game against NYCFC,” forward C.J. Sapong said. “We know that’s going to be a good one for us, it’s a big one, a conference matchup. Again, I think, obviously, we want to take our opportunities when we get them. We also have to be in a position to respond in the best way no matter what happens.”
Schweinsteiger will return to the fold, but the Fire are expected to again be without midfielder and playmaker Nico Gaitan, who sat out last week’s loss with a strained hamstring. Gaitan has four assists, tying him with Aleksandar Katai for the team lead. Nemanja Nikolic leads Chicago with five goals, but his brace against New England accounts for his only two goals in the last six matches.
NYCFC are looking to do the double over Chicago after recording a 1-0 victory April 24. Valentin Castellanos’ goal in the ninth minute separated the sides, and Fire coach Veljko Paunovic was sent off by referee Robert Sibiga in the 80th minute. The Bronx Blues are 5-1-3 in the last nine matches between the sides.
(Sean Johnson photo courtesy Eric Bolte/USA TODAY Sports)
(Premyslaw Frankowski photo courtesy Chicago Fire official Twitter account)