It’s almost that time.
The 2019 MLS Cup champion Seattle Sounders kick off the 2020 regular season on Sunday against a new-look Chicago Fire FC side. Here are three matchups to watch, presented by Toyota.
Raúl Ruidíaz vs. Francisco Calvo
Chicago’s starting lineup will be almost unrecognizable from the one that took the pitch for most of 2019. With numerous new players and a new coaching staff still getting acclimated, look for Ruidíaz to capitalize on the chaos. A cerebral and ruthless striker in the final third, Ruidíaz thrives on finding little pockets of space and making quick, incisive movements to free himself to score goals. Calvo, a Costa Rican national team stalwart, is a modern center back, playing an important role in building possession from the back. He does, however, have a tendency to switch off his marking responsibilities, which should lead to some golden opportunities for Seattle’s Peruvian goal-scoring machine.
Xavier Arreaga vs. Robert Berić
One of three new Designated Players signed to the Fire in the offseason, Berić will be the focal point of visitors’ attack. When teams have a host of new players and coaches, they tend to prioritize establishing fundamentals rather than implementing a complex playing style. As a result, expect Chicago to sit deep and hit on the counter. That will leave ample room for Arreaga to carry the ball into midfield and play those line-breaking passes that can unlock an opponent.
Jordy Delem vs. Djordje Mihailović
One of the most encouraging storylines of the past 18 months has been the growth and progression of Delem. Signed to the First Team from S2 back in 2017, the Martinique international has developed into a capable midfield destroyer in Seattle’s double-pivot. Mihailović, and up-and-coming No. 10, is the best prospect to emerge from the Fire’s youth setup in recent years. If Delem can supply his typical defensive steel in midfield on Sunday, he’ll negate Mihailović’s ability to establish any sort of rhythm in possession for the visitors.