Chicago Fire vs. Sporting Kansas City - MLS #17 - Preview

Ed Zurga

With the Fire still scorching hot after a come from behind victory against San Jose, the Men in Red look to keep rolling against "little brother" this week

Different team, same result. The Fire give up the first goal but somehow, again, take all 3 points in the end against San Jose. The Fire ended up beating the Quakes 3-2 with goals coming from Duka, Nyarko, and Rolfe. There were some scary moments as the defense did give up 2 soft goals in what I would call mental lapses (again). The team responded well after going down by 1 in the first half and were able to tie it up before halftime with a goal from Dilly Duka. Early on in the 2nd half they were able to take the lead through Patrick Nyarko before an Anibaba own goal tied things up. The Fire left it late as a beautifully weighted pass from Mike Magee found Chris Rolfe at the far post, who calmly finished past Jon Busch.

On Sunday the Fire look to continue their impressive unbeaten run across all competitions as they welcome Sporting Kansas City to Toyota Park. SKC are on the a different streak as they have only won once in their past 6 games played. The Fire on the other hand are unbeaten in 9 games and look to make SKC number 10. This will definitely be a different game than what we witnessed in the 2 teams' first encounter back in March. That first match saw the game end in a 0-0 draw with SKC enjoying the majority of the statistical categories while playing at home. Sunday will be a different script though as SKC are not playing at home and the Fire are a completely different team than the one that Frank Klopas fielded back in March.

Lineups

Peter Vermes won't have any of his key players missing and will have full choice of his roster to choose from. Here is who I think he starts on Sunday:

Nielsen

Myers-Collin-Besler-Ellis

Rosell

Kamara-Olum-Zusi-Saad

Bieler

I think that Frank will keep basically the same lineup as the one he used against San Jose midweek. The only change is that he will keep Nyarko on the bench to rest his hamstring that forced him to leave early on Wednesday. Tornaghi is still in net while Johnson is away with the USMNT.

Tornaghi

Anibaba-Soumare-Berry-Segares

Larentowicz

Duka-Alex-Lindpere

Rolfe-Magee

Key Matchups

  • The center of the park. Whichever team controls the center of the park is going to enjoy the majority of the possession. When you have the likes of Zusi and Rosell trying to create from the middle it is imperative that Larentowicz/Pause/Paladini (whoever starts as the holding mid) mark the SKC center mids as tight as possible. Frank will also have to adjust his tactics as the game goes on in order to keep SKC's mids at bay.
  • SKC's high pressure system. I know I haven't talked about it in a while but this week the Fire come up against a team that plays a high pressure system above anything else. We have seen in the past that the Fire defense has had some problems with these kind of systems. I do have to say that the way Frank has his Men in Red playing lately, they are starting to gel and starting to string those quick passes together to get out of trouble. Earlier in the season the Fire had a problem with connecting quick passes from time to time. However, the team has shown in the past couple of months that they can work an attack up field.

Wildcards

For SKC I'll go with Kei Kamara. In the first meeting between the two teams Kamara was playing on loan in England with Norwich City. He can be a thorn in the side of any defender because he can run at you, use his size to hold off defenders, and he has the ability to finish from time to time. He will be attacking both Anibaba and Segares all game long and if he can create space from the full backs he can be dangerous.

As for the Fire, I'll give you two players. If Lindpere starts ahead of Nyarko he is going to have to have the game of his life. He has been playing well as of late as a substitute, and compared to the beginning of the season it is almost a complete 180. Lindpere needs to become that player that we were hoping for when we first acquired him in the off-season. This is going to be his chance to shine. The other player in question is Paolo Tornaghi. In Johnson's stead, Tornaghi has that chance to show the fans and management that he can be that keeper for the future. Yes, he did give up 2 goals against San Jose midweek but they were goals that were more from defensive break downs than anything. Hopefully we can start calling him "lattaio" very soon.

Outcome

Can this positive momentum train keep chugging along? This Fire fan thinks so but it won't be the full 3 points this time. This will be a tough test for the Fire as they come up against one of the toughest teams in the league. Being at home will definitely have its advantage as I'm expecting Toyota Park to be rocking come Sunday afternoon. I'm expecting a lot of physical play along with Peter Vermes doing his usual yelling/screaming/whining/crying at the 4th official. This game will end in a draw. I'm going with a 2-2 scoreline; Magee and Rolfe will be the Fire goal scorers.

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