Friday's match between the Chicago Fire and the Houston Dynamo will be affected by the numerous World Cup Qualifiers taking place around the world this week, with each team losing multiple starters to international duty.
The Fire will be without starting defenders Gonzalo Segares and Bakary Soumare and will also be missing starting midfielder/forward Cuauhtemoc Blanco. Houston will be without two of their top players as well, as forward Brian Ching and midfielder Ricardo Clark will miss Friday's game at Toyota Park due to their call ups to the U.S. team.
The loss of Segares and Soumare really hurts the Fire when one couples it with the fact that another starting member of the back four, Wilman Conde, is doubtful for Friday's match with a shoulder injury. We'll definitely be seeing a patchwork defense this week for the Fire, and one wonders if they will be able to perform better than the defense that gave up three goals against FC Dallas on Sunday.
Expect to see Brandon Prideaux remain in the starting lineup in Segares's place at left back, with one (or both if Conde is unable to go) of Dasan Robinson and C.J. Brown getting the start in place of Soumare.
Fire coach Denis Hamlett will likely keep the attacking lineup similar to what was seen in Sunday's match (in which Blanco was also unable to participate). The only attacking change that is somewhat feasible for Hamlett would be to insert Marco Pappa back into the starting 11. Pappa's insertion would likely come at the expense of Chris Rolfe, Justin Mapp, or
Look for Houston to slide Corey Ashe into Clark's starting spot and for either Chris Wondolowski or Ade Akinbiyi to start in place of Brian Ching.
I think it's kind of a tossup as to which team has the advantage in this scenario. Houston's attack will be taking a big hit with the absence of Ching and Clark, but Chicago's defense could lose more without Segares and Soumare.
In the end, I see Chicago's normal reserves stepping up and playing better than Houston's. Whether or not this advantage will translate into a Fire win remains to be seen, but hopefully the Fire will be able to put it together and take all three points.
I should be making it out to the Fire's practice tomorrow, so look for coverage on that coming your way soon.