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Fireside Chat: Seattle v Chicago, USOC Semifinal

Sounder at Heart's Dave Clark is kind enough to complete the question-and-answer ritual in advance of tonight's EPIC WINNER-TAKE-ALL BLOODBATH ... err, US Open Cup semifinal

Some of these folks will be here, but Starfire isn't C-Link, which is hopeful news for CF97.
Some of these folks will be here, but Starfire isn't C-Link, which is hopeful news for CF97.
Otto Greule Jr

They ask, we answer

1: Please talk about likely Rookie of the Year Harrison Shipp. How is he going to push through and succeed in the late season?

Harry has said that he's starting to feel the spring back in his legs, which is lovely news, as you're correct to say he's having to 'push through' at this point in the season. The fatigue arrived just as opponents began dedicating more attention to Shipp, with obvious results. The hope here is that, with the addition of Sanna Nyassi, the 'Nyarko role' in the Fire's lopsided 4-4-2 will once again be viable, pulling at defenses like warm taffy with blazing runs in behind on the right. Shipp thrives with a bit of space and a defense shifting before him.

2: As the Kings of the Cup will the Fire put out their best lineup possible, or will Yallop focus on trying to get wins in the regular season and maybe making the Playoffs?

Beating New York is encouraging, but this isn't an MLS Cup winning roster. We're two wins away from a fifth US Open Cup. Unless he's recently been replaced by a lifelike replica, C.J. Brown knows how much the Cup means to Fire fans. All of this tells me that Yallop will put his best XI out there.

That said, there's plenty of wiggle room. Magee left the NY game after a blow to the head, though we know he's out for this one with the red card. Center back is an ongoing experiment. There's plenty of swapping that can happen along the wings. And so on.

3: Will the smaller field even things up for Chicago?

By the randy loins of Pan, I certainly hope so. The Fire have played much more credibly in the middle of the park recently, but the roster is still chock-full of guys who are more convincing tackling than avoiding tackles.
I wouldn't be surprised to see Quincy Amarikwa alone up top and the Men in Red arrayed in a lane-clogging 4-5-1, hoping to reduce the game to whoever can snatch a golden moment from the weave of time.

Projected Lineup:

(4-5-1): Sean Johnson; Gonzalo Segares, Jeff Larentowicz, Bakary Soumare, Lovel Palmer; Alex, Matt Watson, Harrison Shipp, Razvan Cocis, Grant Ward; Quincy Amarikwa.

We ask, they answer

1: So, that Clint Dempsey, he's some kinda good, huh? He and Oba Martins have an astonishing wealth of real-world, top-flight experience to offer the other attacking players on the Sounders roster. Which players seem to be benefiting most from playing day-in, day-out with and against Dempsey and Martins?

The player who fits the mold of those two the most is Marco Pappa. The three of them will flood a space and through some kind of magical thing with their feet somehow send one out of the crowded space in on goal. It can be magical. But maybe more impressive is that Lamar Neagle went from journeyman to legit third forward/starting winger as his direct-on-goal skill set suits Dempsey and Martins quite well. They pick him out. While Neagle may not have their skills, he is in the right space and netting goals.

2: How's Jalil Anibaba been for you? I know he's played more at right back; how's the crossing coming? Are Sounders faithful happy with the trade?

Anibaba's time at right, and even left, back is decent. He's had some troubles as a centerback though. As one of the CBs he spends too much time forward in attack, yet is late stepping up to mark an attacker and fill space behind Alonso. Several goals against Seattle are due to Anibaba's mental errors. He has a lot of tools to succeed, but right now he's the 4th CB on a team that needs a clear #2 rather than two 3s and a 4. But that trade cleared cap space and let Sounders FC acquire some other, better players.

3: In Chicago, Amos 'Chesty' Magee is a cult figure for his extra-time goal against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in the 2001 US Open Cup quarterfinals. Who on the Sounders roster is most likely to become Seattle's answer to Chesty?

Thankfully, the Magee Sigi Schmid thought he'd have to worry about won't be there, due to his card in the last match. But Seattle has its own hero of the Cup. Zach Scott not only leads Sounders FC in Open Cup minutes and games, he was part of the old USL Sounders teams that made the semis in their final two seasons at the lower level. Scott is well suited to Stafire as the narrow pitch helps limit his lack of lateral speed. His leaping ability is ideal for the type of games that the field tends to lead to.

bonus questions!
4: You asked me in the reverse about squad rotation; I'm curious how much we're likely to see from Seattle.

It's going to be a mix of the First Team and rotational players. Scott's started a lot in MLS games; Yedlin may be allowed to play again; Martins is not allowed in the next MLS match; Barrett and Cooper make sense; Andy Rose has Starfire skills.

5. Likewise the field width - do you anticipate the Sounders doing anything different tactically to adjust to Starfire? Have they changed shape at all for previous matches there?

Their success on set-plays and winning air challenges will be key. Expect a few more big bodies that go up hard on the pitch. There will also be more direct play than Sounders FC play anywhere in MLS play (except Buck Shaw, because that's basically a high school stadium too).

Lineup and prediction:

Hahnemann; Remick, Scott, Marshall, Yedlin; Barrett, Evans, Alonso, Bowen; Cooper, Martins

Seattle with 2-4 goals. Chicago with 0-2.