This week the Chicago Fire head into their 3rd game in the 2013 season having 0 points as well as scoring 0 goals. In the first game they were outclassed in Los Angeles and lost 4-0. The Fire then followed up the loss to the Galaxy by playing an uninspired game in the 2013 home opener against the New England Revolution. Last Saturday they had a few good chances that should've been put away but weren't. As the game went on the team looked like they were losing focus and not a cohesive unit. The Revolution went on to take all 3 points from the Fire and walk away with their first win ever in Toyota Park.
If Frank and company look to rebound from the first 2 games of the season and play some inspired soccer this week, it won't be easy for them. The Fire travel to Kansas City Saturday to take on Sporting in their home opener. The 2012 Supporter's Shield runners up will look to continue their impressive play at Sporting Park (formally Livestrong Sporting Park) where they lost only 4 times out of 15 games played at home during the 2012 MLS season and playoffs. SKC will look to rebound after a disappointing loss to Toronto FC in Toronto where the score line ended up 2-1. Mental lapses plagued Peter Vermes' SKC team while playing in the Rogers Centre and they will be looking to correct their mistakes against the Fire this Saturday.
Like the Fire, SKC has played 2 games so far this season and has used the same starting lineup for both games. Here is what SKC's starters should look like for Saturday.
Frank normally likes to stick with the same lineup every week, barring any new injuries during training, so this is how the Fire will probably line up.
The only change I can see is replacing Sherjill MacDonald with Maicon Santos. After MacDonald's play against the Revs and being subbed out at halftime, those factors do not bode well for him being in the starting lineup on Saturday.
Last season the Fire took the season series 2 games to 1, but were outplayed in 2 out of 3 games. The first match they played against each other, Frank and company enjoyed much of the possession and attacking opportunities as SKC were reduced to 10 men early in the 2nd half. During that game the Men in Red were not pressured as much as the other games and were able to play to their brand of soccer. The 2 other matchups, played in Kansas City, would leave the Fire lucky to get 3 points out of the possible 6. Vermes was able to play a high pressure system against the Fire and it worked out well except for a bit of Fire luck and exceptional play from Sean Johnson in the game in which the Fire won in KC.
After having played 2 games in 2013, the evidence is there that shows the Fire still cannot handle opposing teams that play a high pressure system against them. This plagued them throughout the last month of 2012 and looks to be continuing into 2013. Look for Vermes to play this system against Frank again when the two teams meet Saturday afternoon. Frank will probably be going into the game looking to bunker down and play for the draw. If this happens they will be playing into what SKC does best, which is a high pressure system that looks to attack and attack fast with no slow build up.
- Zusi/Convey vs. Segares/Kinney- Peter Vermes and SKC has made it no secret that they love to play with a single striker supported with strong wing play. Zusi and Convey will be running at Segares and Kinney all game long. If Segares and Kinney cannot contain SKC's wingers we will be in for a long afternoon.
- Larentowicz vs. Rosell/Feilhaber- Larentowicz will have his hands full as both Rosell and Feilhaber are not the easiest to defend against. Feilhaber's play took a dip in form last season while with the Revolution but SKC is hoping a change in scenery will help revive his form. Rosell has looked good in the first 2 games of the season as he looks to have adapted to MLS play since joining SKC last August. This will be Larentowicz's toughest test so far as he goes up against one of the most solid midfields in MLS.
As the US World Cup qualifiers draw near, look to Sean Johnson to have a great game. He will want to rise to the occasion, like last year when playing in KC, and try to keep the Fire in this game to give them a chance to at least take home 1 point. This will give him the best chance at receiving a national team call up as Tim Howard will be out for the next 2 qualifiers. For SKC, look for Oriol Rosell to control the middle of the field on Saturday. The 21 year old former FC Barcelona youth product has the technical ability and mental awareness to be a solid #10 in MLS. He will be one of the players that SKC will rely heavily on in order to have a strong run throughout the entire 2013 season and playoffs.
After 2 weeks of disappointment, the Fire must rebound and have a good game on Saturday against SKC to start building some confidence back up. Getting 3 points against SKC (in KC no less) would be a massive boost for the morale of the Fire as they look to gain some momentum for the 2013 season. This may be one of those games that Frank and company can treat as a victory if they are able to get a draw. Look for the Fire to give up most of the possession to SKC as they pack it in and play a defensive game. I look for SKC to pepper Sean Johnson with shot after shot. This will be a very tough game for the Fire but in the end I think they will come up short as SKC's high pressure system will be too much for the Fire's backline to handle. As much as I hope for the best with this team, it pains me to write that I think we will lose. The Fire will have to wait until March 24th to hopefully get our first points of the season. SKC will win this one 2-0.