Finally! After five months and a captivating offseason, our guys are back at it. The Fire are searching for the perfect send-off present to hand Chivas USA. Just last season, the goats thumped the Men in Red by a score of 4-1 at Toyota Park - week 4, remember? Ugh.
This season the fans will witness new managers on both sides, looking to implement different tactics from what they witnessed a year ago. Look for the men in (now, mostly) red to trot out a formation used heavily in preseason: the 4-1-4-1. Chivas experimented with more formations throughout their preseason campaign with signs pointing more likely to a 4-4-2 or possibly a 4-3-3.
Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Bakary Soumare will anchor Frank Yallop’s back four. Neither player was a member of the squad when the Fire played Chivas last season. With the absence of film on the Hurtado and Soumare partnership, it will be interesting to see how the home team plans their attack. Soumare showed glimpses this preseason of having returned to past form, and Hurtado seems to be completely over his ACL injury suffered in 2010.
Mike Magee and Juan Luis Anangono were not part of this matchup a year ago either. A hamstring injury that Magee reportedly suffered could prevent him from starting, or could mean a shortened outing if he does start the game. Anangono is going into his first full year in MLS; he will not have an easier matchup this year than in this, his first start. If he fails to look threatening, the pressure on him will only increase. Scoring a goal is not of absolute necessity, but he must make keeper Dan Kennedy work hard for his saves.
Newly acquired Lovel Palmer and Dilly Duka will likely be the other new faces in the starting 11 who were not in the matchup a year ago. Some gripes have been had as to whether Palmer is in any way an upgrade over Jalil Anibaba at right back. Others are more optimistic and like the fact that the former RSL man likes to test his right foot from deep range. Duka really came on strong for the team after the Magee trade, and can help be a real spark plug on the left side. If he is able to frustrate Chivas fullbacks it can open up a plethora of chances for Magee and Anangono.
Adolfo "Bofo" Bautista was a top signing for Chivas USA, but the clubs website is teasing whether he plays a part in this game. He isn’t on any injury list, so if he does play, they’ll look to him to a present a challenge to the Fire defense. Erick "Cubo" Torres is a young, rising star, who will likely be paired up top with Bautista. Torres didn’t take part in last March’s affair because he did not join the club until July, from then parent club Chivas Guadalajara. It will be interesting to see if and when he gets recalled to the Mexican club, but we know he’ll be there this afternoon. He’s likely public enemy number 1 for the Fire defense.
Argentines Mauro Rosales and Agustin Pelletieri are part of a new look Goats midfield. Rosales was adored by many in his time in Seattle and will be a key cog in supplying Torres with quality chances. Pelletieri, a relative unknown to most MLS fans, has the potential to be the forgotten man in attack.
Carlos Bocanegra how we once and still sort of do love thee! The 35 year old former Fire defender and Team USA captain is back in his hometown and will anchor the defense. Conjuring up images for many Fire fans of successful yesteryears, he’s now a welcome addition to the Chivas backline. Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera still hasn’t fully decided on Bocanegra or Kennedy as his captain, which speaks volumes of Bocanegra’s leadership.
Who picks up 3 points?
This is not easy to answer. There are a lot of unknown variables. Despite optimism from their fan base, Chivas USA feels very much like a dead club walking. Their identity will be changed entirely once this season is over. On the field however they’ve upgraded in midfield. They lost Juan Agudelo but gained Bofo Bautista and Cubo Torres for a full season. Bottom line – they have monster potential to score. The defense outside of Bocanegra might look suspect, which gives ample opportunity for the Fire to bag a few goals. With that said, a new formation and center back pairing don’t just gel overnight. Miscues may be abound on both ends of the ball. Since the Fire have more familiarity within their roster, their potential for a win can be seen as greater. The game has potential to be high scoring, but just as easily can end in a 1-1 draw.
Fire attack vs Dan Kennedy. New formation mixed in with early season jitters and rust can absolutely ruin golden moments – just ask Jerry Bengston of the New England Revolution after last night. Duka or Nyarko for instance may earn a penalty, but it would be far from a gift when the penalty taker – whoever it may be – has to go up against Dan Kennedy. If a penalty were to decide it, and Magee isn’t on the pitch to take it, hope all but goes out the window if Chris Rolfe or Jeff Larentowicz are tasked with the assignment.
SO…when and where can I watch it?
KICKOFF: 2 p.m. CDT (You remembered to 'spring forward,' right?)
TV: Unimas. Sorry folks, no My50 just yet.