Preview: Fire host grudge match against Sounders

CHI vs. SEA, 4-27-12

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CHICAGO FIRE vs SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC
TOYOTA PARK, Bridgeview, Ill.
April 28, 2012 (WEEK 8, MLS Game #70)
8:30 p.m. ET (NBC5.2; KONG)

It's a rematch of last year's U.S. Open Cup Final when the Chicago Fire play host to Seattle Sounders FC on Saturday evening at Toyota Park. Sounders FC return to action after a weekend off, their last match a 1-0 home win against the Colorado Rapids. The Fire are coming off a win on the road, defeating Toronto FC 3-2. Seattle won last year's Open Cup title, its third on the trot, a 2-0 win at CenturyLink Field.

REFEREE: Michael Kennedy. SAR (bench): Greg Barkey; JAR (opposite): Peter Balciunas; 4th: Abbey Okulaja
MLS Career: 147 games; FC/gm: 28.6; Y/gm: 3.8; R: 28; pens: 50

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INJURY REPORT:

  • CHICAGO FIRE - OUT: MF Steven Kinney (R posterior tibialis tendinitis); DF Cory Gibbs (R knee meniscus tear); QUESTIONABLE: FW Chris Rolfe (L ankle sprain)
  • SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC - OUT: GK Josh Ford (R knee stress fracture); GK Andrew Weber (L ankle sprain); DF Michael Tetteh (L hamstring strain); MF Steve Zakuani (R leg fracture); FW Babayele Sodade (R knee ACL tear); DOUBTFUL: MF Alvaro Fernandez (R quad strain); PROBABLE: DF Adam Johansson (L hamstring strain); MF Mauro Rosales (R knee sprain); MF Brad Evans (R hamstring strain)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none

SUSPENDED: none

WARNINGS:

SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: none

SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: CHI: Sebastian Grazzini

HEAD-TO-HEAD

ALL-TIME (6 meetings): Fire 0 wins, 3 goals ... Sounders FC 3 wins, 6 goals ... Ties 3

AT CHICAGO (3 meetings): Fire 0 wins, 1 goal ... Sounders FC 1 win, 2 goals ... Ties 2

LAST YEAR (MLS):

4/9: SEA 2, CHI 1 (White 7; Zakuani 25 - Chaves 8)
6/4: CHI 0, SEA 0

  • This is the only league meeting between the clubs this season.
  • Sounders FC have never lost to the Fire in six league meetings all-time. Seattle have won three times - including a 2-1 win last April 9 in Seattle; the teams have played to three draws, including a scoreless result last June 4 in Bridgeview.
  • Sounders FC also defeated the Fire in last year's U.S. Open Cup Final, a 2-0 victory at CenturyLink Field.
  • Coaches record: Frank Klopas vs. SEA: P1 W0 L0 D1 ... Sigi Schmid vs. CHI: P31 W14 L8 D9

CHICAGO FIRE

The Chicago Fire continued their winning ways in Toronto, knocking off Toronto FC 3-2 on Saturday afternoon at BMO Field. The Fire are in a tie for fourth place in the Eastern Conference with 8 points from 5 games.

HIGHLIGHTS: Fire win a thriller in Toronto

LAST MATCH

  • The Fire took the lead just 25 seconds in. Patrick Nyarko picked the pocket of TFC sweeper Torsten Frings just outside his own area, and Dominic Oduro streaked onto the loose ball, took a touch and slotted under TFC goalkeeper Milos Kocic.
  • But TFC took the lead in short fashion by halftime on a pair of goals from winger Reggie Lambe. In the 36th minute, Lambe gathered a punched clearance from a corner kick, made space and ripped a right-footed rocket from outside the box into the top left corner.
  • Four minutes later Lambe was there again. Ryan Johnson made a darting run down the left side and crossed for Matt Stinson, who could only deflect the ball to the back post where Lambe smashed it in for Toronto's first lead of the season.
  • The lead lasted barely a minute. The Fire won a set piece in the 41st minute, and Argentinean maestro Sebastian Grazzini floated a perfect ball to the back post for Gonzao Segares to flick past a sprawling Kocic.
  • The visitors went back in front in the 58th minute. Receiving the ball in midfield, Oduro turned provider, slipping a ball through perfectly for Nyarko to run onto. The Ghanaian playmaker took a touch around the on-rushing Kocic and finished into the open net for the eventual winner.
  • Fire head coach Frank Klopas made no changes to the team that played to a 1-1 draw with the Houston Dynamo at Toyota Park.
  • CHICAGO FIRE (4-3-1-2): Sean Johnson - Dan Gargan, Arne Friedrich, Jalil Anibaba, Gonzalo Segares - Logan Pause, Pavel Pardo, Marco Pappa (Federico Puppo 65) - Sebastian Grazzini (Orr Barouch 79) - Patrick Nyarko, Dominic Oduro (Daniel Paladini 84).

TEAM NEWS

  • Dominic Oduro's goal after 25 seconds vs. Toronto FC was the fastest in Fire history, two seconds quicker than a goal scored by Jamar Beasley on July 4, 2001 in a 7-0 Chicago win vs. Kansas City. It's tied for the fifth-quickest goal in MLS history, and the second first-minute goal in MLS this season.
  • "I'm glad to make history and that my name is now in history, but at the end of the day I'm glad that we were able to get an early goal, get settled into the game," Oduro said.
  • Oduro later played provider with his first assist of the season, setting up Patrick Nyarko's first goal in 2012.
  • "It feels good. It shows that we can be dynamic together," Nyarko said. "Either one of us can play that pass, we can use our pace to get behind defenders. It's a great team win today, we really fought hard. It was a nervy end but everyone worked hard to get this one."
  • Anatomy of a Goal: Nyarko vs. Toronto

  • The Fire had hoped to include newly-returned striker Chris Rolfe in the team for the Toronto match, but he suffered an ankle injury in the days leading up to the match and was not available.
  • "We were just doing a finishing drill and the ball came across the goal," Rolfe said. "My toe got stuck in the turf and my body kept going forward and I just rolled over the top of it."
  • While the two goals allowed matched a season-high, the Fire were able to come away with the full three points for a second time this season.
  • "I think it was an immense amount of concentration," goalkeeper Sean Johnson said. "We battled and we battled we got to 13 minutes left I turned to Jalil [Anibaba] and told him that we are just going to have to weather the storm and to fight through this battle. It's not going to be pretty, they are going to push numbers forward and we will have to deal with the numbers."
  • For Costa Rican international fullback Gonzalo Segares, his goal was his first in nearly exactly three years. His last strike in MLS had come April 25, 2009, in a 2-2 draw with Columbus.
  • "You never know when those opportunities are going to arise. They still bother me but as a defender you don't visualize yourself in those positions - I definitely would like to have some chances back," Segares said. "On this one, I'd just say I'm glad I didn't hit the ëkeeper or put it out of bounds."

SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC

Seattle Sounders FC return to action following a week off, their last match a 1-0 home win against the Colorado Rapids at CenturyLink Field. Sounders FC are in a tie for fourth place in the Western Conference with 10 points from 5 games.

HIGHLIGHTS: Seattle wins a close one over Colorado

LAST MATCH

  • The game's lone game came in the 63rd minute, when Zach Scott sent a glancing header off a Alex Caskey corner kick from the left inside the back post.
  • Sounders FC goalkeeper Michael Gspurning was called upon to make just one save in recording a second consecutive shutout.
  • Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid made two changes to the team that reached a scoreless draw with D.C. United at RFK Stadium. Alex Caskey and Eddie Johnson came into the team, in place of Roger Levesque and Alvaro Fernandez.
  • SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC (4-4-2): Michael Gspurning - Zach Scott, Jeff Parke, Patrick Ianni, Leo Gonzalez - David Estrada, Brad Evans, Osvaldo Alonso, Alex Caskey (Marc Burch 75) - Fredy Montero (Roger Levesque 91+), Eddie Johnson (Sammy Ochoa 66).

TEAM NEWS

  • Making his first MLS start, Alex Caskey set up the lone goal vs. Colorado with his corner kick service.
  • "It's a testament to the depth of our team that we have so many guys that can fill in at so many positions when they need to," Caskey said. "It's worked out well that we have a core group of guys that are in there, with Brad [Evans] and [Osvaldo Alonso] that are used to playing together and we can fill it in with guys who can come off the bench and start."
  • Zach Scott scored his first goal in 29 career appearances. It was his fourth consecutive start in place of the injured Adam Johansson. "We work on it a lot, swinging in good balls and (Alex) Caskey put it right in my path. I didn't have to do much other than run in the right area and get the tiniest bit of deflection on it," Scott said.
  • Eddie Johnson made his first league start since coming to Sounders FC. He had missed the first three league games of the year after coming on a substitute in both CONCACAF Champions League games.
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  • "For him, it's just a matter getting his timing [so] that he's able to train everyday... That helps his timing," Schmid said. "The best Eddie Johnson we're going to see is going to be around the middle of May. As long as he continues to train, his timing, his game intuition and fitness will come at that point."
  • Said Johnson: "I knew from a fitness standpoint I couldn't go 90 minutes, but I felt good physically to get out there, work hard and cause trouble for their back four. As far as my return and my hip flexor holding up, I thought it was a good 65 minutes where it wasn't sore two or three days afterward."
  • With Johnson coming in alongside Fredy Montero up top, David Estrada moved to a wide midfield spot. Estrada had started the first four games as a striker; his two career MLS starts prior to this season were as a wide midfielder and as a fullback, and he also saw extensive time as a central midfielder with the reserves.
  • "It's the same attitude," Estrada said. "Any chance anyone on this team gets to get on the field is an opportunity. Throughout the season, everyone is going to get their opportunity. At some point, everyone is going to have to go to the bench, and I think everyone is just ready."
  • Competition is coming - Mauro Rosales played in the bye week training match vs. the University of Washington. "I feel good," Rosales said. "It was an intense 60 minutes. My knee is still recovering, but it was a good step to try against the other guys. They made me make some extra effort than when I'm training. That's OK."
  • Midfielder Alvaro Fernandez is still further away. "Flaco still has a little bit of an issue when he runs at high speeds, so he's probably a little bit further away," Schmid said. "We'll take it slower with him and we'll see on Saturday."
  • The goal vs. Colorado ended a 306-minute goalless drought for Sounders FC - the longest in MLS this season. "I'm worried because that's what I love, to play and score goals," striker Fredy Montero said. "But right now I'm more worried about the team. I'm happy because the team is winning games."
  • Said Schmid of Montero, who does not have a goal or an assist: "He drew some fouls for us in dangerous situations that set up free kicks for us that allowed us to be dangerous, too. So overall, I think his impact on the game was a positive one and his role ends up being a little bit different, especially without Flaco [Fernandez] out there and without Mauro out there."