Pressure's on, fellas.
After several impressive performances by the Chicago Fire's putative second string - including a fluid and tough-minded 2-1 win over a strong selection from Colorado in the Desert Diamond Cup's opening game - it's time for the traditional ramp-up to league play, which means starters getting serious minutes. It also means that the starters are under the microscope to play well - here's what Chris Rolfe said about it:
The starting lineup for today looks very starting-XI-ish - Johnson; Palmer, Ianni, Soumare, Segares; Larentowicz (c); Nyarko, Rolfe, Alex, Duka; Anangonó. Insert Magee for Rolfe and possibly Hurtado for Ianni and that's the starting lineup most observers have expected for the last several weeks.
Unless I'm very badly mistaken, it's Rolfe and Alex who have the most to prove here. Rolfe's already likely behind Magee in the more attacking of the two center midfield spots; a poor showing today would have anyone thinking of Harrison Shipp's clever use of space as an alternative. Alex, on the other hand, needs to show more verve in the attacking half to hold off Benji Joya's vibrant, expressive two-way game.
As always, we'll talk it out in the comments. It's a beautiful day for some soccer, y'all!