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In The Lions' Den: GAMETHREAD, SKC v FIRE, 2 p.m. ESPN

Chicago's hopes depend upon movement, willingness to fight in afternoon matchup against defending MLS champions

Jonathan Daniel

There are usually several moments in any game featuring Sporting Kansas City where panic is on display. The Sporks press so relentlessly that it's a common thing to see opposition defenders, chased relentlessly into a corner, fail to see simpler connecting passes and, in a panic, bang a clearance long.

It's a natural decision: Giving the ball away close to goal is inviting disaster, while lumping it long (at the worst) makes an attacking move another pass away from fruition, and (at the best) allows a teammate to at least fight for the ball in the air. Except it's a decision the Fire will have to eschew today, in this matchup against the defending champs in their howling maw of a gleaming football palace.

See, the week's roster moves - and Quincy's Amarikwa's suspension for yellow-card accumulation - have left Chicago without the kind of player who could reasonably fight for that long ball, unless one assumes a shocking start for new face Matt Fondy. A striking corps of Mike Magee and Harrison Shipp offers incredible first touch, movement and ideas, but will get dominated by essentially the entire KC roster when contesting balls in the air.

Which, KC playing as they do - and the Fire defense being a sort of ill-confidence support group - means that the Men in Red are going to need to find a way to pass from the back. This game will be won and lost on whether the Fire can keep the ball through midfield; will they support the defense and work hard to make certain there are simple out-balls available? If Chicago can keep the ball enough to give Shipp and Magee some looks in the final third, our chances for a positive outcome are greatly enhanced.

Today's lineup points toward a double pivot with the wings working hard both ways:

Magee is captaining the side in the absence of Jeff Larentowicz:

Meanwhile Sporting counter with an XI which will surely press with wild abandon.

As always, rant or weep or exult here in our comments! Dalé Fire!