kappelhof 2019 preseason

Looking Ahead | Fire head east for 2019 Carolina Challenge Cup

After a three-day break in Chicago, the Fire resume their 2019 preseason with a flight to Charleston, South Carolina on Monday for a week of training leading into the 2019 Carolina Challenge Cup.

The four-team round robin tournament will be held at host Charleston Battery’s MUSC Health Stadium, and kicks off on Saturday, Feb. 16 when the Fire take on Columbus Crew SC. The Fire’s participation in this year’s event marks their first since 2013, when they finished in first place after matches against the Vancouver Whitecaps, Houston Dynamo, and the Battery.

Ahead of their entrance into the 2019 tournament, get familiar with the competition vying with head coach Veljko Paunović and his men for the top spot:

Saturday, Feb. 16 vs. Columbus Crew SC (4 p.m. CT, Stream: CharlestonBattery.com)

Under new head coach Caleb Porter, the Fire’s Eastern Conference rivals enter the opening match of the Carolina Challenge Cup undefeated through three matches in preseason play. Crew SC opened their preseason slate with a pair of shutouts against international competition. Porter’s side battled to a 0-0 draw against Japanese club Vissel Kobe on Jan. 28, before securing a 1-0 win against Liga MX side Club Tijuana on Jan. 31. In their first test against an MLS side, forward JJ Williams netted a second half brace to lead Crew SC to a 4-2 victory over LAFC on Feb. 4.

Wednesday, Feb. 20 vs. FC Cincinnati (6:30 p.m. CT, Stream: CharlestonBattery.com)

The Fire will get their first look at 2019 MLS expansion side FC Cincinnati in an evening kickoff on the second matchday of the Carolina Challenge Cup. Through three matches at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fl., Cincinnati pulled off two draws and a win against MLS competition. They began with a 1-1 draw against the Montreal Impact on Jan. 30, and won a 1-0 contest against the Colorado Rapids on Feb. 2. Nazmi Albadawi was the difference maker in the club’s lone preseason victory to date, a 1-0 win against DC. United on Feb. 7. FC Cincinnati will still play a friendly against USL side Indy XI on Tuesday, Feb. 12 before they begin Carolina Challenge Cup play.

Saturday, Feb. 23 vs. Charleston Battery (6:30 p.m CT, Stream: CharlestonBattery.com)

In the Fire’s final matchup, Paunović and his men will take on tournament hosts Charleston Battery on Saturday, Feb. 23. The USL side will enter CCC play having had just one warmup match to date, a friendly against the College of Charleston held on Sunday, Feb. 10. The Battery finished in fourth place in the USL’s Eastern Conference in 2018, and were eliminated in the opening round of the 2018 USL playoffs with a 1-0 defeat to New York Red Bulls II.