(Editor's note: Computer problems prevented me getting this story up earlier - it wasn't Adam's fault! My apologies, Adam, for the late post time.)
When: Wednesday July 30th at 7:30PM CST
Where: Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois
Where to Watch: My50 Chicago, TWCSC Wisconsin, Toyota Park stands
Hey, What Happened?
The last time we saw our Men in Red in meaningful action, they were run off the field by the last-placed team in the Western Conference. San Jose easily won the game 5-1 in what you could easily call as the worst game this season by Yallop and company. Nothing went right, the defense was mistake prone, the midfield couldn't help create chances, and the forwards had nothing going at all. If you would like to witness all of that again in short form here you go:
Hey, What's Happening?
After a friendly versus Tottenham Hotspur that featured every healthy player that wasn't injured on the Fire featured in, the Fire are set to host the Vancouver Whitecaps in a Wednesday night affair. Vancouver are coming off their fidraw in their last 8 games in which Sunday's draw versus FC Dallas was their third in a row. They jumped out to an early 1-0 lead at home versus Dallas but inconsistent play in their back line led to 2 Dallas goals. They eventually tied it up with a fortunate PK call in the second half.
Hey, What Should Happen?fth
This is going to be a battle of which backline commits the least amount of errors. What am I talking about, you ask? Let me explain starting with the Vancouver side of the ball. After watching the Whitecaps take on Dallas I noticed that the backline of Vancouver was very shaky; this was most apparent when they gave up a PK because of lack of communication. See the replay below.
Also on the first Dallas goal they had problems similar to the Fire where they couldn't clear the ball from danger. See the highlight below.
This is a definite chance for a Fire attack to take advantage of a weak backline and regain some confidence going forward.
Now with the Fire, it is almost like looking in a mirror. Last Wednesday our defense looked sluggish and lazy and on Saturday we saw a lack of communication in the backline when Tottenham Hotspur scored their 1st goal. The Fire, if they want to get the 3 points, have to tighten up their defense and quit making silly mental errors. Its these kind of errors that will cost any team a shot at moving up in the standings and vying for a spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
If the Fire are going to take all 3 points they will have to contain a crafty and speedy Whitecap attack. These are some players to watch on Vancouver
- First up is their Jamaican forward, Darren Mattocks. Mattocks, who is in his 3rd year with Vancouver, has 5 goals and 3 assists this season and can slip in behind any backline with his speed and well timed runs. Just check out the highlight of his goal versus Dallas.
- Next up we have the speedy super sub, Kekuta Manneh. The 19 year old Gambian is in his 2nd year with the Whitecaps but has shown that he has skill, speed and a very dedicated work ethic. When the Fire travelled to BC Place in 2013 Manneh managed to score the 3rd goal for the Whitecaps in a very convincing 3-1 win versus the men in red. Look for him to come in off the bench to take advantage of some tired legs in the opposing defense.
- Last is probably their most influential player and could be considered a dark horse for league MVP, Pedro Morales. The 28 year old Chilean DP came to Vancouver from most recently playing with CF Malaga in Spain's La Liga. He started the season strong by coming in as a sub in the 2nd half of the season opener and had one goal and one assist. After that he seemed to not adjust well into the new environment. That all changed because since the beginning of May he has scored 6 times and assisted on 6 others. He is the focal point to the Vancouver attack and if our defense can slow him down, the Whitecap offense could potentially stall and become ineffective.
Hey What's Going to Happen?
Despite terrible inconsistency through 19 games, the Fire are still in the hunt for a playoff spot. You think the next three games are important? You bet they are. Three straight at home, followed by a trip to Seattle for the semifinal in the US Open Cup.
This 4-game stretch could define the rest of the 2014 season. We will either still be in competition for 2 trophies, 1 trophy, or just looking forward to another long offseason and the start of 2015. So for Wednesday night I'm going to wear my optimism hat and I'll say that the Fire get a 2-0 win as the defense keeps a clean sheet and Harry Shipp gets back on the score sheet by scoring both goals.