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BACK at home POST-road trip: Fire vs. Seattle, MLS Week 10 Preview

The Fire return home to face the struggling MLS Champs. Can they turn the page on a tough road trip?

MLS: Chicago Fire at Los Angeles Galaxy
Basti fights for the ball against Joao Pedro because Jermaine Jones got injured.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

For those who decided that last Saturday you would get some extra sleep by turning in after half-time (and subsequently not looked at any reports of the game), you may have thought the Fire were well on their way to finally reaching their potential. We were the better team and even though we didn’t necessarily “control” possession, we controlled the game. I have bad news for those people, it didn’t end that way. It all came down to set pieces and the lack of a singular man on the back post. On the other hand, the game has delivered us two wonderful new starters, Drew Conner at RB and Matt Lampson at GK. Lampson had a bit of a questionable game due to not being challenged too much, but Conner was quite splendid and looked like Sergio Ramos when compared to Harrington. So with that bit in mind, let’s check out that cloud of dust on the horizon:

The Seattle Sounders are coming fresh off of a home loss to Toronto, which put them below even Minnesota United (I know, it’s weird, right? They’re 7th now). Unlike LA, this team does not seem demoralized, but more like the Fire in that they’re a bit frustrated. The champs just aren’t what they know they can be. While their counter-attack is absolutely deadly, they can easily be undone by an opposing counter attack or even just steady precision passing. So here’s their last three games to show just how easy it is:

Vs. LA 4/23/17

Vs. New England 4/29/17

Vs. Toronto 5/6/17

Three Keys

Back Post

So I may have only brushed past the whole “deadly Seattle counter-attack”, but I just want to re-cement that it’s very important that our defense knows where to cover. One of the biggest gripes from the fan-base is about the zonal marking. What I’ll say about zonal marking is that it works only when every spot is covered. There was a crucial spot we didn’t cover twice against LA and we paid big for it. Seattle is even more dangerous, which means that if we can’t pull off a perfect zone, we need to go man-to-man with one defender on each post.

Pedal To The Metal

What looks to be our biggest issue throughout this road-trip is that we’re still not comfortable with winning. We don’t have a winning mentality. And while that’s hard to define, one specific spot that we fail is when we decide that we don’t need to push anymore. There is a point in almost each game where you see the players almost give up. While I might just be seeing things there, the tactics show Pauno playing overly defensive when he should be pushing the players to see out the victory.

Find the open pockets

Another thing I mentioned back in the Seattle report is that any good counter-attack is enough to beat them. Stephan Frei, while the man who made a season saving save in the MLS Cup last year, hasn’t looked too good this season. Once someone gets past the defense, he’s not exactly been too reliable. And lucky foropposing teams, Seattle has become fond of opening up large pockets of space to pass into. Basti and Dax need to have a field day blasting through balls to our forwards into space. Of course, as always, we still need to finish those chances as well.

Projected Lineups

Chicago Fire

Seattle Sounders

How To Watch

Kickoff: Saturday May 13th, 8:00PM CST/8:00PM CST

TV/Streaming: ESPN2, MLS Live

So will the Fire continue their amazing home record and rebound to win, or will Seattle finally have the same “epiphany” that Toronto, NYRB, and LA received against us? Tell us in the comments!