Two weeks after an emotional 1-0 win over the Colorado Rapids, the Seattle Sounders FC have had plenty of time to recover both mentally and physically.
The team and manager Sigi Schmid now head to Toyota Park in Brideview, Il to face the Chicago Fire at 5:30PT Saturday.
The 14 days off have allowed the Rave Green to prep for not only the Fire, but their other eight games through two competitions over the next 32 days.
Saturday’s match should also mark the return of right-sided creativity (actually, any midfield creativity to be honest) as midfielder Mauro Rosales and defender Adam Johansson, neither of which have played since the MLS opener against Toronto FC on March 17. Left midfielder Álvaro Fernández, who missed the Colorado match with a quad injury is listed as doubtful for this weekend’s match. Another starter, Patrick Ianni, may not be on the pitch come Saturday as he is recovering from a back injury. For safety’s sake, expect to see last year’s pairing of Jeff Parke and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado as the center backs
The Fire, who have started the season snagging eight points out of five games (2-1-2), will put out a healthy and fast side. Chicago is coming off a 3-2 win over winless Toronto in Canada, with goals coming from Dominic Oduro, Gonzalo Segares and Patrick Nyarko. Oduro and Nyarko lead the fast attack that pose a serious counter-attacking threat to an ever-changing Seattle back four.
The Fire have also recently added 23-year-old Brazilian attacking midfielder Alex, who will add another dimension to the Chicago attack as he will pair with Marco Pappa and Pavel Pardo.
The one area where Seattle will have success is attacking the back line and defensive midfield of Chicago. Look for Seattle to keep their 4-4-2 shape with Fredy Montero and Eddie Johnson up top and Osvaldo Alonso keeping the ball in Seattle’s attacking third.
With two weeks of preparation and a practice game against the University of Washington behind them, the Sounders need to head to Chicago and apply a physical style to counter the speed that Chicago will bring. If the Sounders midfield keep possession of the ball and get it to the feet of Montero who has been showing a greater ability to hold play, more space will open for Johnson, Rosales, David Estrada and possibly new left winger Alex Caskey to make runs through the middle and up the wings.
Seattle will be the better team on the pitch come saturday, even without Fernández. Chicago will get their looks at the goal on counters, but in the run of play it will be tough for them to get through the wall that is Alonso and then get a ball past keeper Michael Gspurning.
Prediction: Seattle heads back home sitting at 4-1-1 after snagging a 3-1 win at Chicago.
Update: In a blatant rookie error, I seem to have omitted the fact that this is the Sounders 100th MLS game. In that time, the side is 47-25-27 totaling 139 points, the second best record in the league over the time period.