The Chicago Fire have a midweek game in Seattle. The only thing on the line for the Fire is a chance to finally get a victory at Century Link. They’ve never done it so it would be a nice moment in a difficult season.
Seattle has much more on the line. They are three points out of the final postseason spot with two games in hand on the Portland Timbers. Nicolas Lodeiro has the offense clicking and the team has a little emotional drive after the Sounders announced U.S. captain Clint Dempsey will be out the rest of the year with a heart issue.
To call Wednesday’s game an uphill climb would be a severe understatement.
But there could still be some interesting things to watch from the Fire, mainly if Collin Fernandez can get any playing time at all finally after being recalled from St. Louis FC earlier this week.
Dave Clark from Sounder at Heart stopped by to talk about his team’s playoff push and the blow of losing Dempsey.
Hot Time: The Sounders are surging in a last-ditch attempt to make the playoffs. At only three points behind Portland with two games in hand, how confident are fans feeling that the playoffs, which looked out of reach earlier, are a real possibility?
Clark: With the games in hand essentially being two midweek home games against the two conference bottom-dwellers, confidence is as high as it can be in this situation. That isn't to say that it is high. The offense can sputter at times, but the defense is still strong. Midweek games can be rough on a team with a two-year track record of lacking depth. The October 12th match against Houston will be particularly hard because it is the day after the international break.
But the team and the fans also know that it has to happen one game at a time. The only way that Houston match matters is if the club gets points on Wednesday and then against on Sunday (preferably four or more points). Confidence and fan passion aren't going to get the Sounders to their eighth straight MLS Cup Playoffs - Lodeiro, Morris, Alonso, Marshall, Torres and Schmetzer are.
Hot Time: Nicolas Lodeiro has been a juggernaut since debuting for the Sounders. How has he changed the team since his arrival and is the style of play different with him in the fold?
Clark: He made the Sounders fun again.
Even without Clint on the field Nico manages to find space and spray throughballs. Other players are getting used to his vision and making runs that they didn't make earlier in the year. The attack is not as dynamic as it was in 2015 with Oba and Clint, but it is more mobile. The rest of the team knows that if they move they can expect to see the ball. Lodeiro keeps them involved in the game. His numbers are staggering. Three goals and eight assists in just nine games would be something like 10/20 over a season. But his impact isn't just in the stats column. Players are moving again.
Hot Time: The Sounders have ruled Clint Dempsey out for the rest of the season. How big of a blow is that for any hopes of a trophy in 2017 and more importantly how nervous are fans about his future as a whole?
Clark: Expecting the Sounders to win an MLS Cup with only two great attacking players is probably a bit much. They have the talent to make the playoffs without Clint. Just look at their record and performance without him.
The big issue is Clint Dempsey the man. We have no idea if he'll be a soccer player again. This is an issue with his heart, very little could be more important than that. People are worried about Dempsey, more so than "Deuce." He may never tread again. That's bad for the USMNT and bad for the Sounders. If he can enjoy life still that's good for him, that's where my hope lies now.
Hot Time: Prediction?
Clark: I hate predictions. 3-1, Sounders.