So tonight the Fire head to the thin air of Colorado for the 2nd game of the 3 games they play this week. As I wrote in my "Mega Preview" earlier this week, the Men in Red have not won at Dick's Sporting Goods Park since 2009. This is definitely an uphill battle for Yallop and company, especially as Colorado has hit their stride over the past two weeks. Both teams will be looking to go into the World Cup break on a high.
Last week saw Colorado handle the once-consistent Houston Dynamo with ease in a 3-0 home win. In-form striker Deshorn Brown had a brace to lead the team; midfielder Kamani Hill added the third, his second goal in two weeks. Colorado dominated the Dynamo in every almost every statistical category: they had 62 percent of the possession, took 15 shots (with 9 - 60 percent! -on frame), and have an 81 percent passing accuracy from 516 total passes. They kept the ball, created lots of quality chances, and played Houston off the field. Take a look at the highlights below, as they are pretty one sided.
The Fire come off a 1-1 tie versus the LA Galaxy in a game that I thought was just bland by both teams. It could have been the heat that greatly affected play, but in my opinion that shouldn't matter, as both sides played on the same field in the same conditions. The Fire looked the more dangerous of the two teams as play went on in the first half; Quincy Amarikwa was the offensive catalyst for the Men in Red, creating a few chances but unable to finish them.
It wasn't until the 65th that Quincy was brought down in the box to earn a PK that Jeff Larentowicz buried past Jaime Penedo. But a defensive mistake typical of the club's 2014 happened eight minutes later, when homegrown product Chris Ritter - making his first professional start - made an errant pass that led to a cross from Robbie Rogers that found Landon Donovan at the back post. You can watch the highlights below.
As for this week, both teams played on Sunday with their first choice XI, so I would expect a few changes in order to keep legs fresh - both teams play again on Saturday. I'd like to highlight two players to watch that can determine which team takes all of the points.
For Colorado that player is Dillon Powers. He mainly plays the number 9 spot but he floats all over the field and rarely does he hold onto the ball. Powers has good vision and excellent ball distribution for a second year player. He likes to distribute quickly and this works well with the speed of Deshorn Brown up top.
For the visiting side the player that can control the balance of the game is Quincy Amarikwa. Quincy has the speed up top to beat almost any defender and with Patrick Nyarko out and Mike Magee questionable, his ability to run onto balls will be needed. As shown versus LA, who has the league's top defense, he was able to beat defenders to through balls from Harrison Shipp and the other midfielders in order to create chances for the Fire.
I'm still going to stick with my 1-1 tie prediction, as I expect both teams play conservatively because of fatigue and they will not want to make a mental errors that can give away the full points. If one of the sides is able to take all 3 points, look for Amarikwa or Powers to be the offensive catalysts for their respective teams.