The Chicago Fire are back on the road Sunday afternoon for a nationally-televised visit to Atlanta United FC. Ahead of Sunday's 2 p.m. kickoff, take a look below at some of the key names, faces and storylines set to shape the outcome this weekend:
It was announced earlier this week that Sunday's visit to Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be broadcast on ESPN and ESPN Deportes at 2 p.m. CT. Flex broadcast scheduling during the final two weeks of the MLS regular season allows national broadcast partners to select the most compelling matches, meaning the match will air in more than 170 countries worldwide.
Back at the Benz
While this weekend's trip marks the Fire's first-ever regular season visit to Mercedes-Benz Stadium, it's a place the Fire have already had success this season. The Fire were 1-0 winners in Atlanta in a Round of 16 matchup in this year's Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup tournament back on June 20, courtesy of a Nemanja Nikolić finish in the 54th minute.
Sunday's match is the second 2018 MLS regular season meeting between these two teams, after Atlanta United were 2-1 winners in a visit to Toyota Park on May 5.
Supporters Shield Spoiler
Having already clinched a spot in the 2018 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, Atlanta United enter Sunday's match looking to keep their narrow lead atop the 2018 MLS Supporters Shield standings. The Fire will look to make it two straight wins against head coach Tata Martino's side (all competitions), whose 66 points through 32 matches played are just one point better than the second place New York Red Bulls. If the hosts are to take the next step in securing their club's first trophy, however, it will need to come without the services of attacking centerpiece Miguel Almíron, who suffered a hamstring pull on October 6 and whose status is week-to-week entering the postseason.
While it remains to be seen which players feature in each side's XI, Sunday's matchup boasts a pair of the league's most prolific finishers over the last two seasons. After scoring against Atlanta in the aforementioned Open Cup meeting, Nikolić has scored 19 goals across all competitions (15 MLS), after leading the league and winning the MLS Golden Boot with 24 regular season goals in 2017. He looks set to pass that award along to Atlanta's Josef Martinez, who is in the midst of a single-season record breaking campaign with 30 goals, three more than the prior mark of 27 held by Roy Lassiter, Chris Wondolowski and Bradley Wright-Phillips.