We're about to finally meet this Chicago Fire 2014 team, meet them once and for all. Every team, considered as a collection of personalities, will itself have a personality; it's more complicated than a person, as it's several people, so it takes time to see its patterns. But we'll meet the Fire tonight, finally, as they play against their old boss and his really, really terrible football team, and we'll decide how we feel thereafter.
We've seen them grit out wins, snatch unlikely draws, seen them play well and lose improbably, seen them floudering and flabbergasted and failing. And now, tonight, we're going to see how they respond to humiliation.
Because (make no mistake) Wednesday was every kind of humiliation - Seattle toyed with the Fire in the second half, tearing our best XI to pieces with a mix-and-match roster; the Men in Red visibly gave up late in the game; the margin and the goals-allowed number reverberate through the club's history, worsts in each category.
Frank Yallop changes up the lineup a great deal, dropping Gonzalo Segares and Chris Ritter entirely and starting Magee alone up top. Jeff Larentowicz moves out of the back line into midfield, and a pair of former Sounders line up beside each other in the center of defense.
This lineup will rely almost entirely on movement to create chances - nearly a 4-6-0 - but it also seems the alignment most likely to play well in that style. Look for a very narrow attack; Shipp and Alex drive relentlessly into the space that Magee and Cocis like to work in.
Cochrane and Palmer will be stretched to the breaking point. Each will be asked to provide offensive width while also defending the flank essentially alone. Watson's ability to cover ground will be needed even in the best of scenarios.
The Impact counter with almost precisely the lineup Sofiane Benzaza predicted in our Fireside Chat. New Designated Player Ignacio Piatti starts on the left wing; with San Lorenzo, he typically played as an inside forward from there, slashing into the penalty area to create chances for himself or others.
The Fire's subs bench has a little more punch than we're used to seeing. Quincy Amarikwa, Sanna Nyassi, Grant Ward and Benji Joya give Yallop more-attacking options all over the pitch.
Let's be honest: We lose this, it's hard to see the playoffs happening. If the Fire come out anything less than aggrieved and inspired, we'll know all we need to know about this team. And we'll start the countdown to the next one. But with a win ... either way, we'll know. COME ON, YOU MEN IN RED.