Fresh off a beautiful 2-0 win against Atlanta this past Saturday, the Fire should definitely be feeling good. And while the league looks good, it only makes the USOC look even better. The Fire have always had a solid history even when we’ve been terrible. Now that we’re good, we should win this competition no problem, right?
Well, it could also mean we’re going to move focus from it to the league, which is sad due to our rich history in it. Either way, we do seem to need a nice extra momentum speed boost.
You may recognize St. Louis as our old USL affiliate and that’s... basically all that most Fire fans know about them. I was in the same boat, at least until I scouted them. What I saw seems to be the Fire’s perfect opponent.
Their offense seems to be able to create chances on the break, but never seem to finish. They rely on their set pieces for their opportunities. Their true strength lies in their defense, which seems to always be on alert due to the lack of possession. Their goalkeeping appears solid and their defense flexible, but any defense can be broken by sheer talent, which is provided by players like Niko or Accam (or even Johnson).
I can’t find highlights for their game with Michigan that brought them to this point, but here’s their last three league games:
vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies
vs. Toronto FC II
vs. Bethlehem Steel
That Open Cup Magic
When people talk about the “Magic of the Cup,” they’re usually talking about something involving Cinderella stories or great moments of soccer. For the Fire, it means stupid weather. It’s just a given for us that Mother Nature will not look pleased at the sight of a Fire USOC game. Usually this severe weather is at home, but now the rain has followed all the way to St. Louis, whose forecast calls for thunderstorms in the evening around the time that the game will be. Hopefully the Fire will be up at half time so we can get the win by default.
Rotation, Rotation, Rotation
Pauno has seemed to be a very consistent man. Every time you’d think he’d mix up the lineup for fitness or form purposes, he doesn’t. The team’s lineup seems like the lineup that’ll finish the season. On the other hand, I think that this is a game that we’ll see a heavy rotation, especially with the squad rules (only 5 foreign players in the 18) and the New England game later in the week. This gives a chance for the younger players to show themselves, which is what I always enjoy seeing.
Set Pieces Are Still Important
We haven’t had problems on set pieces since LA, but I think we need to take another look at it against this team. In their past three league games, all but one goal came off of set pieces. This isn’t just “put a man on the back post” again, this is true defending against that attack. The rest of their offense is terrible, but it’s those set pieces that’ll kill us. I’d say, “don’t foul anyone,” but that’s impossible to achieve. Instead, we just need to be prepared.
St. Louis FC
How To Watch
Kickoff: Wednesday June 14th, 7:30PM CST
So will the Fire handle their job? Or is there a giant killing in the making? Or maybe they get rained out! Tell us in the comments below what you think.