It's been an interesting week for the Chicago Fire. Chicago game back from 2-1 down to equalize and earn a point against the visiting San Jose Earthquakes. Two days later, coach Carlos de los Cobos was fired and replaced on an interim basis (for now) by the team's Technical Director, Ring of Fire member and local soccer legend Frank Klopas. The buzz is mostly positive around Klopas' appointment; de los Cobos' technical abilities as a coach have never been much of a question, but his tactical abilities and scouting preferences were never a good fit for MLS and rumors that his team quit on him towards the end of last season did him no favors. With the team dwelling near the bottom of the Eastern Conference yet again, the club decided that a drastic change was needed should they hope to salvage something of a season that looked to be headed off the rails.
Klopas doesn't seem likely to win many awards for innovation, but when trying to get results headed back in the right direction sometimes it's better to get back to basics. The Fire will be without Marco Pappa-arguably their best player-as he will join the Guatemalan National Team for the Gold Cup, but that might not be the worst thing for Chicago where this game is concerned; Pappa is primarily an offensive player despite operating out of the midfield and if you're trying to grind out results against a team with their own offensive struggles, stifling the midfield is a decent place to start. It's not at all unlikely that we will see Chicago shift from playing a very fluid style to a very scrappy one, and such a shift would not suit the Sounders well. Seattle thrives on open games and if the opponent succeeds in shutting things down they're at a massive disadvantage.
It will be interesting to see what kind of lineup the Sounders put on the field against the Fire. Seattle ended Real Salt Lake's 29 game home winning streak with a starting lineup that did not feature Fredy Montero but Montero came on as a substitute and performed quite well. Despite his solid performance Montero was still practicing with the reserves this week, and there are some indications that he has once again found himself into Sigi Schmid's doghouse and could be in for yet another appearance on the substitute's bench tomorrow evening. Alvaro Fernandez is like out for this game thanks to a hamstring problem which means we may very well see Lamar Neagle get the start though it's also possible that Mike Fucito, Erik Friberg or even Leo Gonzalez get the nod on the left. Chicago have scored just one fewer goal than the Sounders in three fewer games, so their trouble hasn't been a horrendous attack. If Klopas can shore up the back line, this could be a tough one for Seattle. Despite the Fire's lowly standing a draw would be a perfectly acceptable result for Seattle in this game as it generally is when playing away from home, but this one has trap written all over it. If the Sounders have been guilty of the same sin on numerous occasions this season it's been playing to the level of their opposition; do that in this game, against a motivated team under fresh leadership that's underachieved all season long, and it could come back to hurt them in a big way.