Espindola - Movement Movement Movement
One thing that struck me about RSL striker Fabian Espindola in last week's match against New England was his movement. Espindola covered more ground than anyone on the field, constantly switching wings but also making runs down the middle looking for through balls from Beckerman, Morales and co. The problem for the Fire is that RSL have three absolutely fantastic attacking players in Morales, Espindola and Alvaro Saborio. Saborio and Morales are feared league-wide for goal scoring and creative play respectively. Espindola has used his lower profile to his advantage, tallying the most shots and the most shots on target for RSL this season and sitting second in team goals. Man marking him is out of the question but the Fire cannot turn off for a second and let him go unnoticed.
It may sound cliché but testing RSL's back-up keeper, Kyle Reynish will be very important tonight. Reynish is replacing Nick Rimando, a keeper that has seemingly been an ever-present in the RSL net since arriving from DC United in 2007. Reynish is rarely given an opportunity and it will be interesting to see how well he communicates with his back line. Grazzini's corners have been perfectly placed in recent matches and the Fire should look to pressure Reynish on every set-piece. The team as a whole has done a great job of following up shots this season and should continue to do this against the inexperienced keeper.
Berry or Anibaba? If It Aint Broke, Don't Fix It
Austin Berry had a stellar debut against Chivas last Friday night. Sure, he gave up a penalty but it was a very questionable call. Berry was very sound defensively and worked well with his partner Friedrich, but it was in attack that Berry showed his true talents. Ever since Wilman Conde left the Fire, Chicago has failed to have a consistent threat from a defensive player on set-pieces. Berry showed in the Chivas game that he is a real threat coming up from the back. The goal he scored against Chivas was a very difficult skill to pull off, namely adjusting your body to make contact with the ball and at the same time putting it out of the keeper's reach. On many of the Fire's corners against Chivas, Berry was also a threat, getting close to scoring on more than one occasion. Defensively, Berry faces a very tough test but his aerial ability from attacking free kicks or corners may pay dividends in what will surely be a close match.
Playing the Klopas Way - At Just the Right Time
Against Seattle and Chivas, the Fire played their best soccer of the season, a very encouraging sign coming into the today's match against RSL. Frank Klopas has stressed since the time he was the Technical Director that he wants his teams to play attractive, one touch football and in the last two games the Fire haven't disappointed. I spoke in my last preview about the Fire's need to continue to switch the field whenever possible and they did so very often against Chivas with Pappa pinging balls from his side of the ball to a wide open Nyarko on the other wing. The one touch passing was best evident in the game wining goal against Chivas where Pappa, Puppo and Roboyo combined to devastating effect. The attacking play of the full backs Gargan and Segares is also a Klopas design. Both players have bust into the attack for most of this season but it was especially evident in the past two games. With the Fire facing its toughest week of the season to date, coach Klopas must be confident in how well the team is playing, even if the scorelines are a lot closer than the on the field play would suggest.