There was much anticipation surrounding the pairing of Juninho and Dax McCarty in the Chicago Fire's midfield.
The official start of the partnership had to wait an extra week after Juninho served a red card suspension in the Fire's season opener after being sent off in his last game in Liga MX with Tijuana.
The two are expected to start next to each other in the Fire's home opener Saturday against Real Salt Lake. CSN will televise the match with coverage beginning at 12:30 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live.
Juninho said he was not expecting the suspension at all and having to watch the Fire’s season opener, a 1-1 draw at Columbus, was uneasy for him.
"It was not easy to be out and watch my guys from outside," Juninho said. "I'm not used to it. I prefer being on the field and helping than just watching. It was very frustrating for me that day. When I got the news it was the worst day."
Juninho's delayed debut comes when the Fire are down two midfielders already. The Brazilian is expected to step into the starting lineup alongside McCarty, taking the place of the injured John Goossens. Matt Polster remains out with a knee injury.
"I've been waiting for it," Juninho said of his Fire debut. "I'm preparing myself to be in a great shape, to be on the field on Saturday. I know what I can do with my team and all my teammates with the club. We know what we can do this season."
Forward David Arshakyan, who came off the bench late at Columbus, is also listed as out on the injury report with a thigh strain.
The Fire will take on a Real Salt Lake team that is a bit thin at defensive depth at the moment. Justen Glad got injured while playing with the U.S. under-20s as that team won the CONCACAF qualifying tournament. Another center back, Chris Schuler, will also not travel for RSL. Aaron Maund is also on the way back from a hamstring injury and has been limited as well.
RSL drew Toronto 0-0 last weekend in Utah with goalkeeper Nick Rimando saving a penalty kick in the first half. The Fire last won a home opener in 2012.
"For next game it's very important we have to create the atmosphere for the players who feel good about it, but also excited and give their best," Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said. "We have to create a good atmosphere. Expectation. It's a start for us at home, home opener. We got to make that notice in our game, in our play and that's what we are going to try to do."
Chicago Fire vs. Real Salt Lake
Where: Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Ill.
When: Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live