Chicago Fire set for test vs. high-flying Sounders: "They know how to win games, we're learning"

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- After resting key players for the midweek 0-0 tie at the Colorado Rapids, the Chicago Fire head coach Frank Yallop expects to select his strongest available team for the visit of Western Conference leaders the Seattle Sounders on Saturday (8:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE).

Yallop must plan without the injured Mike Magee (calf), Patrick Nyarko (ankle/knee) and Logan Pause (hamstring), but otherwise he believes he will have a full complement to choose from for the visit of the convincing early pacesetters in the MLS.

“As long as we’ve got no injuries, we’ve got a couple of guys pretty sore and stiff after the games we’ve just had, but I would like to change it back to what we had last week,” Yallop said, referring to last Sunday’s 1-1 tie with the LA Galaxy at Toyota Park

“There could be a couple of slight changes, but we’ll see. I’d expect that we’ll probably be pretty close to what I think is a full strength line-up coming into this game.”

Gonzalo Segares and Lovel Palmer would be expected to return in the full-back berths at the expense of Greg Cochrane and Steven Kinney, while Yallop’s chief dilemma will be who partners Jeff Larentowicz in the center of midfield and who plays alongside, or just behind, top scorer Quincy Amarikwa up top.

Although captain and midfield general and ever-present Larentowicz is Yallop’s main concern, he added: “Jeff has got a slight issue but I’d expect him to be ready to go.”

Fellow midfielder Alex has been training this week and could earn a place on the bench, or better, but Yallop was keeping his cards close to his chest at practice at Toyota Park on Friday.

Having claimed their first clean sheet of the season in Denver on Wednesday, Yallop would like his charges to build on that against the league’s top scorers.

“We’re coming off our first clean sheet of the season, which is a plus, it would be nice to get one at home,” Yallop admitted. “I don’t think many teams enjoy playing against us, we’ve done a nice job of making it pretty difficult for teams, mostly, and I think we look pretty dangerous going forward.”

However, Yallop is under no illusion as to the size of the task facing his side, as they host a Seattle side with an impressive 9-3-2 record, and drew a contrast between his side who he admitted are “still learning.”

“They’re a good side, they’re on 29 points already so they’re pretty good, they know how to win games, we’re still learning,” he conceded. “We’ve only lost three matches but we’ve been pretty close to winning a lot of the other games but, again, it’s about putting the ball in the net at the right times and we haven’t quite done that and we haven’t kept it out.

"So it’s a tough game for us but we’re excited and looking forward to it.”

Shane Murray covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com.