The Seattle Sounders will kick off at 7:30 PM against the Chicago Fire on what is shaping up to be a beautiful June 4th evening at Toyota Park. If you have been living under a rock this week, let me tell you that this will be Frank Klopas' first game as the head coach of the Fire. Klopas has been tight lipped on who he will start but he has also preached that he only wants 'tweaks' and 'small changes'. The first minute of today's game will be the first minute Chicago has not had Marco Pappa on the field as he is now away on International Duty for Guatemala's Gold Cup squad. The changes keep coming as Patrick Nyarko is no longer listed on Major League Soccer's Injury Report and has been participating in training this week. He probably won't start but he should make the bench.
Thoughts on the full Chicago Fire lineup, how Seattle will look and more after the break
On the topic of stars missing this game, don't be surprised if Fredy Montero does not start. There's some debate as to what exactly Seattle's head coach Sigi Schmid is looking to accomplish but Montero did not start against Real Salt Lake and Seattle won 2-1. Reports out of Seattle suggest Montero was working more with the second team than the first team in training. Montero has only scored two goals in 12 games but he also has 4 assists. His six combined goal/assists are tops on the team. If Montero doesn't start, look for him to be a very dangerous substitute. Seattle's second leading goal scorer Alvaro Fernandez might miss the game all together as he was listed as questionable on Friday's MLS Injury Report. O'Brian White and Steve Zakuani scored the two goals in the 2-1 Seattle victory over Chicago on April 9th and both of them are listed as out for this game too. So who will possibly score for the Sounders? Brad Evans leads the team with 4 goals and figures to start as the central midfielder. In Montero doesn't start, former Fire forward Nate Jaqua should start and be paired with pint sized Mike Fucito up top. Neither player has a goal this year and Brad Evans hasn't scored since early May but you are hoping Diego Chaves, Cristian Nazarit or Daniel Paladini score tonight, right? The Fire very likely could have scored 3 or 4 goals earlier this year in Seattle if it weren't for goaltender Kasey Keller. Schmid on the sidelines and Keller in net mean that this will be a tough game for the Fire regardless of who else starts for the Sounders.
It's ironic that given the coaching change this week, Chicago might feature a more regular lineup than their lime green opponent. I except Chicago to roll out a 4-4-2 lineup of Sean Johnson; Bratislav Ristic, Yamith Cuesta, Cory Gibbs, Gonzalo Segares; Dominic Oduro, Daniel Paladini, Logan Pause, Davis Paul; Cristian Nazarit, Diego Chaves. If that happens, Paul in the place of Pappa would be the only change in lineup and that would have been forced upon the team by the Gold Cup call-up.
Overall I expect Chicago's players and fans to come out with a new energy in Frank Klopas' first game as coach. Tonight also marks the first week we've experienced warm weather leading up to the game. Attendance should be stronger for it. Seattle has the veteran edge and a significant results advantage but all the intangibles seem to be in Chicago's favor. I predict the Klopas era starts off rosy with a 2-1 Chicago victory.