Here we are. Finally. After a worldwide pandemic stopped the season after two games, two teams being eliminated from the tournament, and one canceled game; The Chicago Fire are stepping onto the pitch at 8 AM Tuesday morning to play the Seattle Sounders.
They shouldn’t be.
None of this should be happening. There were over fifteen thousand new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, and over twelve thousand on Sunday. Florida is the epicenter for the epidemic that is still persisting in the United States with no end in sight. To insist upon the continuation of this tournament that increasingly feeling like a circus sideshow is a moral failing.
With all that being said, watching these games as the tournament has commenced made me feel good. A horrible, selfish part of me wants to see these teams play games. For the most part, they’ve been fun to watch, and what the bad games didn’t have in quality soccer, they had the enhanced field audio that let us into the game and let us hear the players sling profanities at one another to keep us entertained.
I’m also excited to see this Fire club with all the pieces in place for the most part live up to their potential. Head Coach had them playing some fine soccer before the stoppage. Meanwhile, Georg Heitz has brought in some anticipated reinforcements that look like they can spur the club onto being a title contender.
And then, I remember.
Seattle come into the match after getting lucky holding a surprisingly good San Jose squad to a scoreless draw. Before the suspension of the season, they drew with Columbus and as we all know, beat the Fire in the season opener.
The unfortunate news (for the team, soccer wise) is that Johan Kappelhof never made the trip down to Florida. He picked up a knock in training before the team came down and was unable to join the team. Michael Azira had a similar issue, but the depth in midfield is much more robust than in central defense. My biggest concern is Francisco Calvo switching off and Pineda being too inexperienced to cover for him. But Pineda, according to all reports, is performing phenomenally in the bubble and scored a wonder goal in a scrimmage against Minnesota. The three midfielders are there because I know they’re good, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see other selections there.
Keys To The Match
Be Prepared: This one might be a bit obvious, but hear me out. The Fire are in an interesting position in that they’ve already played Seattle this year. They have first hand knowledge of how the Sounders like to play, and if their coaching staff is as smart as we think they are, They’ll be building a game plan to take advantage of that knowledge. Seattle will also have the same tape, though. So the Fire must also make adjustments to their play if they want to take home 3 points.
Be Focused: The biggest failing for teams so far in the tournament has been the lack of match sharpness and along with that, concentration. The Fire need to not have these lapses more than most teams if they want to succeed. Calvo especally is prone to have moments of lapsed concentration. These are where goals are created in this tournament, and the Fire can’t afford to give up goals, especally when they have a hard time creating chances themselves.
Control the Game: Success in this tournament has come to teams who are able to control the tempo and the ball throughout the match. And from what we know of the Sounders, they’re susceptible to falling asleep when they don’t have the ball. The Fire need to have as much of the ball as possible to take advantage of Seattle’s lackluster form. Quantity of chances to score is the name of the game in this one.
How To Watch
Television: 8AM CT ESPN
Streaming: WatchESPN and the ESPN app
The game itself is going to be interesting. I’m going to go with a 1 all draw, but I won’t really feel good about watching it until kickoff, and I’ll go back to hating it’s existence after it’s over.