The undefeated Chicago Fire, only a day removed from their thrilling 3-2 stoppage time win over Chivas USA, must now return home and switch their focus to FC Dallas, whom they will square off against Sunday at Toyota Park.
The first place Fire will be coming into the match riding a 3 game win streak and will look to continue their good form against a woeful Dallas team. The Fire have already defeated FCD this year, beating the Texas side 3-1 in the season opener.
The Fire will be without midfielder Cuauhtemoc Blanco for Sunday's battle for the Brimstone Cup. Blanco scored 2 goals in the win over Chivas USA on Thursday night, both from the penalty spot. Blanco will miss the match due to international duty; he reported to training camp with the Mexican National Team today and he will miss Sunday's match as well as next Friday's game against the Houston Dynamo.
Here are a few questions I have heading into Sunday's match.
Will the Fire be able to put together a complete, convincing win?
Despite winning their last three, the Fire have done so (especially in the last two games) playing at a level that is certainly below their best. Although the results have been great, I hope (and somewhat expect) to see the Fire really come out and dominate a weak Dallas side right from the start. I would like to see some better, quicker passing and cleaner, tighter defending from the Fire than what was on display against Chivas USA Thursday night.
How will the Fire replace Cuauhtemoc Blanco?
I expect Patrick Nyarko to return to the starting lineup in place of the Mexican international, but who knows if Head Coach Denis Hamlett will have a trick up his sleeve? Another possibility would be to insert Justin Mapp into the midfield and put Chris Rolfe into Blanco's forward spot.
Will Bakary Soumare be able to get back on track?
The Fire center back has had a rough stretch as of late, playing a tough game at the New York Red Bulls and giving up a pretty unnecessary PK to Chivas USA last night. His week will likely get no easier, as Dallas forward Kenny Cooper will be coming to town on Sunday. Cooper has scored four goals on the season (including a 60 yard wonder strike against the Fire) and if he is provided with any type of service, could cause some problems for the Fire defense.
Will anyone show up?
The Fire have struggled with attendance thus far this season, only averaging 10,998 fans per game in MLS play. With a low-profile team like FC Dallas coming into town, I'm not too optimistic that too many more fans will show up on Sunday.
On another note, I will be at the match on Sunday, and I'm excited as it's the first game I'm covering (in person at least) for Chicago Fire Confidential. So look for a little more than my game analysis, as I'll actually be talking to the Fire players and coaches this time around.