Tonight is game one out of three for the season between Sporting Kansas City and the Chicago Fire. To Sporting, we are their hated rivals. We are the Joker to their Batman. The Roscoe P. Coltrane to their Luke and Bo Duke. We are the...well, you get the point. To us, there's nothing special here other than another team standing between us and a second MLS Cup.
Coming away with three points here is a must for a couple of reasons. First off, since Sporting is at the top of the Eastern Conference, a win here is technically a six point gain on them. This is also going to be the only time we have Sporting at home this year, so we need to make it count. Lastly, after today's game, three of the next four games are on the road. The one positive of this last point is that all four of our next games are against beatable teams (@Portland, FC Dallas, @Columbus, and @New England).
There are going to be a few interesting match-ups today. Arne Friedrich and Austin Berry are going to have their hands full with C.J. Sapong and Kei Kamara. Both players are comfortable playing with their backs to the goal and getting physical with defenders. They are also both incredibly tall (Sapong and Kamara are 6'2" and 6'3" respectively), which gives them an advantage on crosses and set pieces.
Sporting have a couple of players in the midfield who are dangerously accurate with crossing the ball. Pavel Pardo and the rest of the Fire midfield can't give Graham Zusi or Roger Espinoza space at the top of the penalty area. Give either of these players space to work with, and it could result in a goal. When it comes to crosses from the flanks, Chance Myers can be a huge pain. He has a lot of speed for a right back, and he likes to use it to get far up the pitch on overlapping runs. Handling Myers in that final third is going to be up to Gonzalo Segares. Segares had a very solid game against Real Salt Lake last week. Hopefully he can keep it up.
Offensively for the Fire, they need to keep up what they were doing against RSL, but with more quality chances. Sporting is a defensively stout team. If the Fire are going to score goals, it most likely will not be off a defensive mistake.
A few things to note lineup wise, Patrick Nyarko maybe sitting this one out. Federico Puppo will get the start in his place. For Sporting, Michael Harrington will be starting at left back again to replace the injured Seth Sinovic.
A few other notes:
- The Fire have not lost to Sporting Kansas City since October 12th, 2010.
- Sporting have been shutout 2 games in a row and have not scored in 205 minutes.
- If Logan Pause plays today, he will pass Zach Thornton for second place in most appearances across all competitions for the Fire (277). Recent Ring of Fire inductee, C. J. Brown, is at the top of that list with 372.
Starting line ups will be posted once they are announces. Go Fire!