If you want to know what to hope for - if you're curious about best-case scenarios - then know this: The Chicago Fire want nothing more from today's match than that casualty of the modern age, silence.
If the Fire are to return to Chicago with three points from their west coast sojourn, they're going to have to do it the hard way. They're going to have to stand firm against 20 thousand or so sing in hope, and they're going to have to be clever when 20 thousand or so scream in dismay, and they're going to have to be resolute as 20 thousand or so howl in rage - and if they can, they just may arrive at a beautiful land on the far side, a quiet land, a silent land. The promised land. Three points on the road. Take their best shot, keep your head about you; shut them up; leave town grinningly defiant.
That's the hope, anyway. There are ... other possibilities. We shan't dwell upon them. We shall evaluate further, in real-time, in the comments. Even Mike Magee had something to say about the expectations of the soccersphere:
Alright @cobijones I see how it is.. Everyone and their mother against us. Just how I like it #cf97 pic.twitter.com/oxVO8WqzRp— Mike Magee (@magee9) March 16, 2014
The Fire starting XI signals a complete break with last week's lineup, as new starters include Benji Joya, Harrison Shipp, Quincy Amarikwa and Matt Watson. Chicago change four of the attacking quintet for today's game. At kickoff, Shipp becomes the first Homegrown player to take the field for the Fire.
#cf97 starting XI vs. @TimbersFC: Johnson; Palmer, Hurtado, Soumare, Segares; Joya, Larentowicz (C), Alex, Shipp, Watson; Amarikwa.— Chicago Fire (@ChicagoFire) March 16, 2014
A lot of quality and youth on the bench for CF97; putative starters Anangonó and Nyarko wait for their chance:
#cf97 subs: Reynish, Anangono, Cochrane, Ianni, Nyarko, Pause, Pineda.— Chicago Fire (@ChicagoFire) March 16, 2014
The Timbers' lineup shows Pa Modou Kah failed his fitness test. Futty Danso is there to be exploited, gentlemen. Timbers subs are Weber, McKenzie, Powell, Zemanski, Nanchoff, Zakuani, Piquionne.
Timbers XI vs. CHI: Ricketts, Jewsbury, Danso, Paparatto, Harrington, Chara, Valeri, Johnson ©, Nagbe, Urruti, Fernandez #RCTID— Portland Timbers (@TimbersFC) March 16, 2014