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Chicago Fire awaiting Nicolas Gaitan’s arrival ahead of Red Bulls meeting

Mar 16, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Fire midfielder Dax McCarty (6) shoots the ball against the Seattle Sounders during the second half at SeatGeek Stadium. (Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY Sports)

Dax McCarty was with the New York Red Bulls for six years, but now in his third year with the Chicago Fire, facing his former team is becoming more normal.

McCarty will go up against his former team for the sixth time since leaving when the Fire host the Red Bulls on Saturday. He admitted it was strange the first time he returned to Red Bull Arena in April, 2017. That has worn off over time.

“That was kind of the one where it felt a little bit surreal,” McCarty said. “Didn’t really sink in yet, but now played them numerous times. I think it just feels normal. I’ve had plenty of time to let it sink in and all that stuff. They’re just another team on the schedule. Obviously a team that I have a history with and have some good friends on that team still so it’s always going to be good to catch up with those guys. But for the most part a very tough rival, a very good team, a team that’s constantly going to be fighting for the top of the conference and a real test for us.”

The Fire were off last week with the international break, but not all of Major League Soccer had the weekend off. The Red Bulls hosted Orlando City SC and lost 1-0. Another former Red Bull and a former teammate of McCarty’s, Sacha Kljestan, scored the game’s only goal.

“Giving me some motivation,” McCarty said with a laugh. “It’s funny. I don’t score many goals, as you guys know. I haven’t scored for the Fire. Getting my first goal against the Red Bulls, that would be fun. I’m going to try to follow in Sacha’s footsteps.”

While McCarty hasn’t scored with the Fire, he did get an assist against the Red Bulls in his first game against his former team.

The Red Bulls are 1-1-1 and coming off winning the Supporters’ Shield last season. The Fire (0-2-1, 1 point) split the head-to-head with the Red Bulls, winning on the road in April and losing at home in August.

“We know how to beat them,” Fire forward Nemanja Nikolić said. “We beat them last year there in New York. I played a really good game and I hope the first win, we will have that this Saturday.”

Gaitán’s pending arrival

Argentine playmaker Nicolás Gaitán hasn’t yet joined the Fire, but the team is hoping for his imminent arrival.

“We are expecting him this week,” coach Veljko Paunović said after training on Tuesday. “We still don’t have confirmation, but we are expecting that everything is going to be fine this week for him to join us.”

Paunović added that the team is waiting on his visa and would not rule out Gaitán playing Saturday against the Red Bulls.

Fire on international duty

Three Fire players represented their countries during the international break.

Przemysław Frankowski came off the bench twice in qualifying matches for Euro 2020 for Poland. He subbed on at halftime in a 1-0 win at Austria and entered in the 83rd minute of a 2-0 win against Latvia.

Nicolas Hasler started in a pair of Euro 2020 qualifiers for Liechtenstein. He played 86 minutes in a 2-0 home loss to Greece and played the full 90 in a 6-0 loss at Italy on Tuesday. The short turnaround plus travel could put Hasler’s availability for Saturday’s match against the Red Bulls into question.

Djordje Mihailović was not called in to the U.S. senior team, but instead played with the Under-23s. That group is preparing for Olympic qualifying, which will take place in October. Mihailović started a 2-0 loss to Egypt on Friday. He was subbed out at halftime as coach Jason Kreis played a completely different XI for the second half. Two days later, Mihailović played the full 90 in a scoreless draw against Netherlands.

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