When: Wednesday July 23rd at 9:30PM CST
Where: Buck Shaw Stadium in San Jose, California
Where to Watch: NBCSN
Hey, What Happened?
The Fire hosted the Union this past Saturday and the teams shared the spoils. The Fire looked the more dangerous team, having missed numerous chances until Jeff Larentowicz was able to make amends for missing a wide open header in the first half by scoring a wide open header in the second half. Unfortunately that was not enough, as a questionable hand ball call in the box on Gonzalo Segares gifted the Union a penalty kick in the 90th minute which was converted by Sebastian Le Toux. Fire fans may say that the call was wrong and we should have won the game, but that's what happens when a team doesn't finish the opportunities that come their way. Saturday night it wasn't about how unlucky they were, it was about not being able to finish the game off earlier.
Hey, What's Happening?
This is the first time in two years that the Men in Red travel to Buck Shaw Stadium to take on the Earthquakes. The last the Fire were there, our current coach was throwing a fit late in the game which resulted in almost 10 minutes of extra time. What did that extra time do exactly? Well, it gave San Jose more time to tie the game - and they did just that. Will roles be reversed this time around? Will the Fire be able to snatch something in dying minutes due to our coach throwing a fit to earn more extra time?
Like the Fire, San Jose are also coming off a 1-1 draw when Steven Lenhart was able to score the equalizing goal versus the Red Bulls in the 85th minute. That goal was good enough to break their four-game losing streak, but still leaves them winless since the end of May. The Fire should be able to take advantage of the Earthquake's poor form as they look to improve on their 2 wins, 5 draws, and 2 loss record away from Toyota Park.
Hey, What Should Happen?
I said it last week and I'll continue saying it, the Fire must win the possession battle. The Men in Red lost the possession battle at home (again) to the Union, giving up 53% of the possession. They are creating some chances, but the fact that they can't even have the majority of possession at home to a team that could have been handled easily can be unsettling. There are very few teams in the world that can give up possession week in and week out and actually win. The draw this past Saturday night versus the Union could have been avoided if the Fire had been able to keep hold of the ball.
Complicating this desire to keep the ball is the size of the field - Buck Shaw Stadium is not only a bit shorter than most MLS pitches, but it's also terribly narrow. Expect to see very little space through the middle of the field and tackles flying in as the teams scrap to maintain possession.
This brings me into my next point, the Fire have to finish their chances. Even though San Jose is winless in their last five league games it doesn't mean they have not been in those games. The San Jose defense has only given up 6 goals in those 5 games and 19 goals against in 17 games. The Earthquakes defense has been pretty good all season long and will try to limit the Fire's chances. This is why the Fire can't let those chances go to waste. I'm pretty sure that the Fire's defense will be able to hold an offense that scores a goal a game but it's the Men in Red's attack that will have to perform in order to take home the 3 points.
Hey What's Going to Happen?
Wednesday night's game marks the second match of five in the span of 14 days. Yes I do realize that one of the five games is a friendly sandwiched in, but with only 22 people on the roster healthy enough to play and not on loan, I can guarantee you that some starters will have to play versus Spurs. I just have a feeling that Frank will continue to use his first choice starting XI no matter how much rest they need. For Wednesday night versus San Jose I get a strange feeling that we will see a repeat of what happened in Colorado in June. A dull, give-up-possession-and-play-bunker-ball game is what I'm predicting. Instead of a 0-0 draw, though, I'm going to go with 1-1, as the Fire continue to drop points versus teams that they should be able to defeat.