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Fireside Chat: Fire v Seattle, MLS #14

Can the Men in Red come up with a little magic after two grinding draws? We talk with Dave Clark of Sounder at Heart about the teams' final game pre-World Cup

John Gress

We ask, they answer

HT: How does Dempsey being gone change things for the vaunted Seattle attack?

SAH: While the magic of Dempsey is gone the offense changes. Rather than route through the magic man the team becomes a bit more direct. They can use Neagle, Pappa and Barrett to go right at the defense rather than around it (Pappa can still go around fairly well). Those guys are netting goals, earning assists and generally a nuisance to opposing defenses. They (and Cooper) have 11 goals and 10 assists.

But Seattle also has Obafemi Martins. He's faster than you. He's got better footwork than you. His hold-up play is strong. He can thread the needle. He's Seattle's second best player. He's also an MVP candidate at this point in the year.

HT: Gonzalo Pineda seems to have played his way into the lineup. What's his game like? How's he improved the team?

SAH: Think of Brad Evans with better passing. Or the good version of Shalrie Joseph with worse defense. Pineda is a classic number 8. He's that box-to-box center mid who has the vision to find the gaps and the skill to send the throughball. His service from set-pieces and corners is strong as well. He's a touch slower than ideal. There are also times that he and Alonso don't communicate as to which should be forward at a particular time. Still, he's been a strong addition that lets Brad Evans play outside and is the type of player Sounders FC have wanted for some time.

HT: Which DP will you shuffle off to us in August so you can bring in Zlatan?

SAH: It probably won't be a DP, or even a pricey player. You'll get a bench player and you'll like it. Then MLS will buy Seattle Zlatan since this is Obafemi's World Cup.

HT: Who's missing?

SAH: Dempsey. DeAndre Yedlin. Djimi Traore (adductor). Andy Rose (MCL). Tristan Bowen (concussion). Dylan Remick (ankle). Damion Lowe (hip). Kevin Parsemain (ACL). Just seven guys...

HT: Who are we likely to see?

SAH: Frei; Gonzalez, Scott, Marshall, Evans; Neagle, Pineda, Alonso, Pappa; Martins, Barrett

They ask, we answer

SAH: What's changed with Yallop in charge now?

HT: Yallop is much more of a 21st century manager than Klopas ever was. It's possible, if one pays close attention, to see Yallop tweaking the team in identifiable ways; under Frankie K, it always felt a bit 'hey, let's roll this out there and see what happens.'

That said, this coaching staff came pre-sold as defensive fixers - Yallop has that reputation of starting from the back, and CJ Brown is a club legend in defense - and that clearly hasn't come together. Which leads to the last change - there's no doubt that Yallop is here for the long haul. Win or lose, he's going to get some time to shape this team to his desires.

SAH: How are Hurtado/Ianni doing for Chicago?

HT: Some folks aren't 100% sold on Hurtado yet, but I'm not one of them. He's played every minute of every game. Admittedly, the goals-against numbers aren't flattering, but he's suffered at times from erratic decision-making beside him. JKHe went through a stretch where Soumare and Ianni took turns hanging him out to dry pretty frequently, with predictable results. Against Colorado, clearly exhausted, he was a rock. I'm sold.

Ianni has not impressed. Soumare did everything but hand the job to him on a platter after some mind-blowing gaffes in the first few games, and Ianni's performances handed it right back. Soumare has seemed sharper since returning; Ianni may have seen his chance for starter's minutes go away.

SAH: With Seattle being the second of two games this week what squad rotation should be expected?

HT: You should get a very close approximation of the first XI, as the Fire rolled out a reserves-heavy lineup Wednesday - the question is, will Yallop retain the 4-2-3-1? The switch to the double pivot has markedly improved the Fire's defensive shape (while also making interesting arguments about Jeff Larentowicz's limitations). I'd look for Logan Pause to get some minutes in defensive midfield if two d-mids are needed - expecting Chris Ritter to start his first three games as a pro in six days might be a bit much. Besides the guys who are hurt (as below), you'll get the best we've got.

Significant Absences: Mike Magee (calf strain), Patrick Nyarko (ankle surgery), Alex (hamstring)

Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1): Sean Johnson; Gonzalo Segares, Bakary Soumare, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Lovel Palmer; Jeff Larentowicz, Logan Pause; Dilly Duka, Harrison Shipp, Grant Ward; Quincy Amarikwa.