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Real Salt Lake vs. Chicago Fire: Scouting Report

RSL’s first game on the road takes them to Chicago to face a revamped Fire.

MLS: Chicago Fire at Real Salt Lake Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Fire SC finished in last place in the MLS standings in both 2016 and 2015. They want to change that this year. They've brought in Nemanja Nikolic, Dax McCarty, and Juninho, all of whom can help boost the Fire's chances for a successfully season in a big way. Last weekend they were able to draw against Columbus Crew on the road.

The Fire is a team that has done well historically, but that history is getting more and more distant. In their first season, head coach Bob Bradley led the team to win MLS Cup and the 1998 US Open Cup. They won the US Open Cup again in 2000, 2003, 2006, and the Supporters Shield in 2003. They’ve only made the playoffs once since 2010. They’re in the second year of rebuilding under Veljko Paunovic, who took over as head coach after the 2015 season.

Paunovic’s vision for this year is to play a strong defense and build up the midfield and into the attack. David Accam seemed to be the Fire’s only consistent goal scoring threat last year but with the addition of Hungarian striker Nikolic, and two huge improvements in midfield, they have a real chance to change that. McCarty and Juninho might now be the best defensive mid pairing in the league. If Nemanja and Accam can gel, their attack is a real danger. This is no longer a team where a win is a given.

Forward - David Accam

Accam was one of the few bright spots in Chicago over the last two years. He’s only 26 but has played in Sweden, England, and for the Ghana National Team. He scored the equalizer in last week’s match against the Columbus Crew. That goal displayed his footwork and positional intelligence. He’s not a player you want to leave with any space to maneuver.

Foward - Nikolic Nemanja

Nikolic was brought over from Legia Warsaw, where he scored 41 in 56 appearances. Legia Warsaw is one of the best teams in the Polish league. He has 23 caps with Hungary’s national team. He is a solid striker and if he can adapt his attack to MLS, he’ll be a big boost to the Fire.

Midfield - Dax McCarty

Dax’s trade to the Fire came as surprise to both MLS fans and McCarty himself. He was a long time Red Bull player and the team captain. Red Bull traded him to Chicago Fire for $400,000 in General Allocation Money. He brings a veteran presence and real leadership to the midfield. He plays in a defensive midfield role, but as his 46 career assists point out, he can contribute to the attack.

Midfield - Juninho

Juninho was a regular starter for LA Galaxy for many years. He’s a known player in the league, and when paired with McCarty in the defensive mid role, he will make Chicago’s midfield a real challenge to attackers and a danger to defenders. He was ineligible to play in the Fire’s first match due a red card he picked up in his last Liga MX match. Saturday will be the first time he plays a regular season game with Chicago.