As summer winds down on the calendar, so does the Chicago Fire 2011 season. We all know that summer is already gone in Chicago but it officially doesn't end until next week. In a sense it is like the Chicago Fire playoffs chances: technically existing but officially extinguished in a matter of days. The kick-off time of 3:00 PM means it will be a littler warmer for Fire fans than if it was a September night game. It also means this game will be over quickly. More on playing out the season and the game are after the break.
Despite a depressing intro, Chicago enters the match with more enthusiasm than Chivas USA. Last night's 3-0 victory by the Portland Timbers over the New England Revolution moved Chivas USA's playoff hopes down all the more. The Los Angeles based squad hasn't won a game in over a month. Nick LaBrocca who was key to the team's semi-positive form in the first half of the season has gone rather cold.
The Fire played an embarrassing game against San Jose last week and lost 1-0 to Chivas Guadalajara in an exhibition on Wednesday but there less than 20 days until the U.S. Open Cup Final in Seattle. That has to be keeping an extra spring in everyone's step around Toyota Park. Look for Frank Klopas to move Jalil Anibaba back to RB to compensate for Dan Gargan's yellow card accumulation suspension. It will be curious to see if Josip Mikulic starts alongside Cory Gibbs at CB again like he did on Wednesday. It wasn't that long ago that Cuesta and Gibbs combined to give up just 12 goals in 12 games and that stretch finished with 6 goals in 9 games. I really think that Cuesta is a longer term player for MLS and Mikulic starts down the line this year will be final evaluation by the technical staff for if they want to keep Mikulic here next year and protect him in the expansion draft. Gonzalo Segares will return to LB after serving his own one game suspension for yellow card accumulation. The offensive set will likely return to the Pappa, Pardo, Pause, Grazzini, Oduro, and Nyarko unit that has provided the team's best offensive sparks all year. Substitutions might be a littler earlier especially if Chivas USA begins to play a very physical game. Oduro is coming off a minor ankle injury. Pardo and Grazzini have been receiving their fair share of knocks.
Final Score Prediction: Chicago Fire 1 - Chivas USA 1
Chicago Fire Announces Academy Partnership With Indiana United
We'll have more on this during the week but the Fire announced on Friday that they have formed an academy partnership with Indiana United. Indiana United has a very solid program and the two sides have been talking about putting something together for awhile now. Now that IU is in the fold, their players will be eligible to participate as Fire players in competitions including Generation adidas Cup, MLS Reserves League games, and Fire PDL games. This move taps into relatively local talent and helps them to develop with MLS resources. Look for more on this impact as the academy season approaches.