With the Fire playing their best soccer of the year, I like Chicago's chances tomorrow against the team that likes to pretend we are their rivals. The Sporks are still a dangerous team to be sure, but if Magee, Duka, and company keep playing like they have been, the Fire should secure all 3 points.
This week's Fireside Chat will be a bit shorter than usual. I made a quick exchange of info with Ben Gartland over at The Daily Wiz. Enjoy, and please join us tomorrow for the gamethread and match recap.
Hot Time In Old Town Asks The Daily Wiz
1. Sporting started off red hot but now find themselves surrounded by playoff contenders. What positions, if any, need addressing in the transfer window? (via John Jenzah)
With Graham Zusi's move back to the midfield, it opens up a spot for Sporting KC to go out and get a true winger. Kei Kamara already has one of the spots locked up but the other side is up for grabs between Sapong, Peterson and Saad. A wing would probably be the best bet for Sporting.
2. So, just between us now, what's the deal with Benny Feilhaber? (via Sean Spence)
Benny is as he was with New England: You never know which one of him is going to show up. There will be times when he stinks up the pitch and there will be other times where he returns to World Cup form. This is why Zusi moved back to the midfield because he was being so inconsistent.
3. KC began the season trying to play a bit more of a controlled possession game, dialing down the physical pressure a bit, with mixed results. Has the return of Kamara (and, to a lesser extent, the failure of Feilhaber) swung the team back to their aggro ways? Or have they split the difference in some way? (via Sean Spence)
Kamara has certainly allowed an outlet for a more aggressive style because of his speed and great movement off the ball and the failure of Benny has lead to putting the better playmaker in Zusi back in the midfield. It's allowed them to be more aggressive in the midfield and the control the flanks, which makes for a more aggressive style.
4. Which team do you think is better? This year's team or 2012? (via Mark O'Rourke)
This year's team has the potential to be better than last year but so far they've lost points where they should've won. They have the personnel to equal last year and the addition of Claudio Bieler should've given them a better finishing touch. However, through the midway point of the season, Sporting is on pace for 52 points, 9 less than last year. I want to say that they're just as good but they haven't proved it.
5. Do you miss the name "Wizards"? (via Adam Merges)
I do but I wouldn't trade Sporting KC back. Sporting KC has evolved from a middling club to a upper tier club in the MLS ever since that name was debuted and the commitment to excellence the FO has had since the name debut really amplifies that. I do like the Wizards as a nickname, similar to how Chelsea is the Blues. I hope that sticks as a point of nostalgia and where we came from to get to this point.
Predicted lineup: Nielsen, Myers, Collin, Besler, Sinovic, Nagamura, Rosell, Zusi, Sapong, Bieler, Kamara.
Predicted score: 2-2 draw
The Daily Wiz Asks Hot Time In Old Town
1. How big of an impact has Mike Magee been since Chicago acquired him?
Mike Magee has single-handedly turned the team around. From scoring goals to being a leader to providing a vocal boost, I can't say enough good things about Magee right now. Chicago is gaga over Magee, and for good reason. I don't think it's a coincidence that his arrival has helped other struggling players step up their play (Dilly Duka for example).
If the club can add another striker up front when the window opens, as rumors are indicating, it could make the team, and Mike Magee as well, even more lethal. It's certainly a great time to be a Fire fan.
2. Chicago hasn't lost a match since May 18th, what's been the biggest reason why?
The aforementioned Magee has to be at the top of the list. Sean Johnson has been his normal stellar self during the run as well. Duka and Rolfe seem to be finding a groove, and all this has culminated into a lot of team confidence. That confidence has translated into a bit of a feeling of invincibility.
I would look for that to carry over to Sunday. The forwards are stepping it up, and the midfield has been quite good as well during the run. The back line continues to be shaky at times, but has been bailed out by a red hot offense. While Fre/SKC matches are always intense, the Fire are coming into the game on the highest of highs right now.
3. The Sporting FO tries to push Chicago and SKC as a geographical rivalry, do Fire fans feel this match is a "rivalry match?"
No, we don't. It's a bit of a running joke between Fire fans now. We realize that it's the SKC FO that is really pushing it, rather than the fans. While I think there is a contingent of KC fans that would like to have a true rivalry, it's just not there yet. That's not to say that a rivalry won't ever form. But, as I have stated before, it needs to be built by the players and fans naturally.
Big games with a lot on the line will go a long way in helping build a rivalry. Also playoff games. The Fire built up a strong dislike for New England, and some pretty intense playoff games played a big part of it.
Predicted Lineup: Tornaghi, Anibaba, Soumare, Berry, Segares, Nyarko, Pause, Alex, Duka, Rolfe, Magee. Right now Nyarko is questionable to play. If he can't go, look for Joel Lindpere to slot into the lineup.
Predicted score: The Fire and SKC are coming into this game at opposite ends of the spectrum. There isn't a worse time for them to face the Fire than right now. With the team playing at home, I will go with a 2-1 Fire win. Magee and Duka will net for the Men in Red. I will call a Bieler goal for SKC.