After a delightful midweek takedown of some lesser Midwestern team in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, the Chicago Fire hope to continue their recent run tonight against a San Jose Earthquakes squad seeking to end a season-worst run. The match at Toyota Park begins at 7 p.m. tonight central time and airs on UniMas.
San Jose comes into Chicago doing its usual thing. The club enters tonight’s match in eighth place in the western conference, with 22 points in 16 matches. The placement sounds bad, but the team is only one point out of the final playoff spot and only five points behind third-place Real Salt Lake. Like an annual MLS tradition as old as Christmas, the Earthquakes have been frustratingly mediocre for much of the season, playing a well-organized and physical 4-4-2 that muddies up games and rely heavily on Chris Wondolowski to get on the other end of long balls the box or to live up to his reputation as a poacher to finish up any loose balls near goal. Wondolowski returns from US national duty tonight, and it’s not a moment too soon for the club that was held scoreless in three of four matches during his absence. His seven goals are more than a third of the total goals (19) scored by the team this season.
But Friday is far from a walk in the park for the Fire, and there’s a reason the Earthquakes have recorded at least a point in 12 of 16 matches this year. They’re a well-oiled machine in the backline and midfield, having controlled possession and actually outshot opponents in more than half their games this year. Former Chicago Fire and star of #QuincyTime, Quincy Amarikwa, embodies the team workhorse mentality giving enough energy through the 90 minutes to power a fleet of Teslas to drive back to the north suburbs after the match.
That energy though can be for naught, especially when the team finds itself in front of net. Once again, Amarikwa embodies that spirit (as so many Fire fans can recall), with one goal on 31 shots. The whole team has scored only 19 times on 185 shots.
The defense has been a high point for the club all season, allowing 19 goals in 16 matches this season. But as our friends over at Center Line Soccer told Jeff Engelhardt, the Earthquakes will be without central defender Victor Bernardez and backup defender Andres Imperiale. Fellow defenders Clarence Goodson and Jordan Stewart have also been ruled out for tonight’s action.
Once again, the Fire will be hosting a team that has yet to win on the road, with the Earthquake having gone 0-4-4 this season. The Earthquakes’ defense is also seemingly being held together with a combination of duck tape and youngsters called up from Arizona United SC of the USL to fill in holes in the roster. Those glimmers of hope should have Fire fans at least not already giving up on winning tonight, though the aura of pessimism is understandably heavy. Wondo’s return may not be enough for the club, and I’m taking the Fire with a 2-1 victory after King David Accam puts two goals in the net to continue his excellent, recent form.
What are your thoughts and predictions? Leave a comment below?
(from Earthquake’s official matchday preview)
REFEREE: Jose Carlos Rivero. AR1 (bench): Kermit Quisenberry; AR2 (opposite): Eric Boria; 4th: Younes Marrakchi
ALL-TIME (34 meetings): Fire 13 wins (0 shootout), 49 goals … Earthquakes 10 wins (0 shootout), 42 goals … Ties 11
AT CHICAGO (16 meetings): Fire 8 wins (0 shootout), 30 goals … Earthquakes 2 wins (0 shootout), 17 goals … Ties 6
LAST YEAR (MLS): 3/22: SJ 2, CHI 1 (Alashe 5; Harden 21 – Shipp 29)