The Seattle Sounders are in Chicago tonight to take on the Fire, in what Seattle supporters hope turns out to be an even better match than Freddie Ljungberg's return to Qwest Field. Let's take ourselves back in time for a moment, Sounders fans, to that glorious night less than a month ago, when Fredy Montero scored the game-winning goal in extra time. The match also saw both Montero and Osvaldo Alonso send a message to their former teammate, by committing back-to-back fouls that brought Ljungberg to ground, but it's certainly the last-minute winner that stuck in Chicago's mind.
Chicago is likely looking for revenge, but at this point, it's nearly all about pride for the Fire. While a perfect run of play could put them into the playoffs, it's almost certain that they won't be heading to the post-season. Seattle will be doing whatever they can to prevent perfection; with only five league game left to play, the Sounders need to collect as many points as possible to cement their own playoff slot.
Seattle needs a road win, and this could be their ideal opportunity. They're playing an opponent that regularly fails to live up to its potential. The team is finally healthy and they're likely fielding their strongest side possible, excepting Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, of course. And while they're coming off a rather disappointing midweek loss against Monterrey in their midweek CONCACAF Champions League match, most of the starting XI should still be flying high from the 4-0 smashing of Columbus Crew last week.
If Sigi Schmid chooses to use what I feel is his strongest lineup, this will be the first time that Alvaro Fernandez, Steve Zakuani, Montero and Blaise Nkufo have started a match together. The potential of this happening is exciting--with Nathan Sturgis and Alonso holding up play in the midfield, Fernandez and Zakuani creating havoc on the wings, Montero being tricky in the middle, and Nkufo slowing down play and looking to add to last week's goal tally, well, this match could be one of the best Sounders supporters have seen.
Then again, Schmid could go with a different lineup, or this projected one might not gel as much as I think it will. I'm just hedging my bets, though, to make sure that I'm not calling the bluff of the soccer gods.