BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Unbeaten in both games so far this year, the Chicago Fire face perhaps their toughest task of the young season.
The Fire begin a two-game Pacific Northwest road trip on Saturday, when they take on the Seattle Sounders at Qwest Field (4 p.m. ET; Direct Kick/MatchDay Live). They then face Portland in the Timbers' home opener on April 14.
“[Seattle's] going to be a big challenge,” captain Logan Pause said. “We know that they’re going to come out flying, especially in front of their home fans."
The Fire have gotten off to a good start this year, earning a tough point at FC Dallas on March 19 before defeating Sporting Kansas City at Toyota Park on March 26.
The same can’t be said about the Sounders, who are winless in their first four matches. Seattle came close to pulling out a victory last week, but they failed to hold a lead on two separate occasions in their 2-2 draw at San Jose. They’ll be feeling a lot of pressure to break their winless streak this weekend — something that will likely push them to try and start the match with a bang.
"They’re going to try to put us under the gun a little bit," Pause said. "We expect that’s what’s going to happen and we’re prepared for that.”
Though they’re expecting a tough first 15 to 20 minutes, Pause said that the Fire won’t deviate from their usual first half-approach.
“Maybe it’s going to be a little bit different with where they’re at and where their mentality is, but it’s no different for us,” Pause said. “We just want to make sure that we have a good start.”
The Fire will have to limit Seattle’s talented midfield if they’re to get that good start. The Sounders' solid midfield quartet will likely take on a larger-than-usual role on Saturday, as talented striker Fredy Montero has been all but ruled out of the match with a wrist injury.
“We’ve been thinking about and focusing on their midfield,” Pause said. “[Osvaldo] Alonso is a key player for them; he’s the distributor for that team. Brad Evans is a guy who loves to make late runs into the box and is dangerous and then they have [Steve] Zakuani on the wing. We’re definitely aware of those guys.”
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.