Match Preview

Match Preview: Charlotte FC at Chicago Fire FC


Charlotte FC has started a critical month of May with back-to-back shutout victories at home.

Now, CLTFC faces a quick turnaround to a midweek away match in Chicago where the team has seen good success at Soldier Field in the past. A win on Wednesday would be the first away victory of 2024 for Dean Smith’s team to keep pushing Charlotte FC up the table.

Match: Charlotte FC vs Chicago Fire FC

When: Wednesday, May 15

Where: Soldier Field

Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET

Watch: MLS Season Pass on Apple TV – How to Watch & Listen

Listen: WFNZ 92.7 FM (English) & WOLS 106.1 FM (Spanish)

For all other radio station affiliates in the Carolinas, click here.

Previous Matches:

Charlotte FC 1 – 0 Nashville SC (Major League Soccer | May 11)

Chicago Fire FC 1 – 3 St. Louis City SC (Major League Soccer | May 11)

Eastern Conference Table: For the full live table, click here.

5. New York City FC – 17 points, 12 GP

6. Charlotte FC – 17 points, 12 GP

7. D.C. United – 17 points, 12 GP

8. Columbus Crew – 15 points, 11 GP

9. Philadelphia Union – 14 points, 11 GP

---------- Playoff Line ----------

14. Chicago Fire FC – 10 points, 12 GP

Away Match Mentality Shift

Since arriving in Charlotte this winter, Head Coach Dean Smith has fielded plenty of questions on the differences between soccer in the United States and football in England, where he had spent the entirety of his career until now between the Championship and Premier League.

One that comes up often in press conferences is away travel, where Charlotte FC is still searching for their first win in 2024. In Major League Soccer, there has always been a narrative about it being more difficult to earn points away from home here than elsewhere in the world. The numbers back up this narrative, as our writer Caleb Adams found that MLS teams earn 0.1-0.2 PPG less away from home compared to Europe’s top five leagues last season.


Various theories abound on the why behind this increased home advantage, including the length of air travel across a country with multiple time zones and vastly different home surfaces (turf vs artificial turf, wide fields vs baseball outfields, etc.).

However, Dean Smith simply does not agree with the narrative.

“I believe some people before they even leave have accepted that it's going to be tougher,” he said at Thursday’s press conference. “And the only reason it's tougher is because that's in your head. Yeah, you've got to travel, you haven't got your home fans and the home advantage. But the pitches are normally the same size, and you still have to get into their box to score a goal, and they've got to get in yours, and you've got to defend your box.”

Ultimately, Smith has acknowledged that the major difference is the lack of traveling fans due to the hefty logistical and financial challenges facing fans who want to attend away matches in the U.S. In England, with everything in driving distance, it’s common to have thousands of away fans to help with momentum swings.

Otherwise, his message to the players is that the mentality needs to shift to be more proactive and confident on the road rather than simply accepting the disadvantage.

Additionally, Smith thinks Charlotte FC’s road woes haven’t been indicative of their performances.

“We should have had more points on the road; our performances have merited more points,” he said. “But we've not taken chances on the road so far.”

This will be the thing the squad tries to correct this Wednesday in Chicago. Turning those good performances into goals will be the difference in bringing home a disappointing result or a vital three points.


The Opponent

Chicago Fire FC have endured a tough start to their 2024 season, as they currently sit second from bottom in the Eastern Conference with 10 points from 12 matches. They are winless in their last five matches, with two scoreless draws their best results since beating Houston Dynamo FC 2-1 at home on April 6.

Hugo Cuypers, an offseason Designated Player acquisition at striker, currently leads the team with three goals alongside young Homegrown Brian Gutierrez. Gutierrez shares the creative attacking burden with the team’s second DP, Swiss international Xherdan Shaqiri, who has two goals and two assists.

The team has conceded 22 goals (the 2nd-most in the Eastern Conference) while scoring only 12. Despite the statistics going against them, they have seen success at home with a 2-3-1 record, so their danger at Soldier Field cannot be underestimated.

The Season So Far

CLTFC won their first match of the season over NYCFC with a gritty 1-0 win at home. They then faced three consecutive games on the road, securing a 1-1 draw in Vancouver before tight losses to Toronto (1-0) and Nashville (2-1).

Upon finally returning to Bank of America Stadium, the team impressively downed the defending MLS Cup Champions, the Columbus Crew, by a 2-0 score. Then, they secured another impressive result, drawing the defending Supporter’s Shield Champions, FC Cincinnati, in a 1-1 match.

After a disappointing road loss in New England, CLTFC won a thrilling back-and-forth match against Toronto at home courtesy of a late Patrick Agyemang match-winner but then suffered two disappointing results in a row with losses to Minnesota and NYCFC.

Now, after reigniting their electric home form with back-to-back shutout wins at home over Portland and Nashville, the team will search for their first win away from home in 2024 at Chicago.