The Fire took part in a very tough practice today, doing a ton of conditioning work while not spending a ton of time on the ball. After Fire training I (along with a mass of other media members...) headed into Toyota Park to catch the end of the U.S. team's practice and I was fortunate enough to talk to Logan Pause and Bob Bradley. I'll have a full write up on Logan for tomorrow and you can click after the jump for a few more notes from the Fire (and U.S.) practice. While there was no big news of note to report from today's training session I talked with Denis Hamlett and Tim Ward about a few key things in the lead up to Saturday's match at Seattle and here they are...
**Dealing with Seattle's home field advantage:**
The Sounders are tops in the league in attendance and they routinely pack Qwest Field with 30,000+ intense fans. All in all the Fire seem excited about the prospect of playing in front of a full house though.
"I think they have a good home field advantage with the turf and the fans," said defender Tim Ward. "But I think a lot of guys on our team like to play in big games. This is the type of atmosphere we wish we had every week every stadium so we're excited for it and hopefully we can get three points."
Coach Hamlett had some similar thoughts on Seattle's advantage.
"Whenever you can play in that type of atmosphere it brings out the best in you," said Hamlett. "We welcome playing on the road and our mindset doesn't change. We're going to be aggressive and stick to our game plan and hopefully we can get the result."
**Defending Seattle's attackers:**
With Fredy Montero, Nate Jaqua, Freddie Ljungberg and many others Seattle has a wealth of attacking options at their disposal. The Fire did a good job of slowing the team down in the team's first meeting (allowing a corner kick goal) and they are looking to do the same thing this time around.
"We just have to be aware of them at all times," said Ward. "We can't ever lose our focus or our concentration and just make sure were ready for them at all times."
I asked Ward, who normally gets up pretty high in the attack from his right back spot, if he will change his style of play to better deal with Seattle's attackers.
"I think I'll stay back a little bit more," he said. Usually on the road I don't get forward as much because we just try and stay in our positions more so I think I'll try and stay back a little more."
Hamlett offered a slightly different assessment of how the team plans on dealing with Seattle's weapons.
"You have to make [their attackers] defend," said Hamlett. "I think you respect the fact that they have an attacking minded group but I think the way that you can minimize that is having your guys look to attack and make them have to defend."
While I was afforded the opportunity to talk with Logan Pause at the U.S. team's training today I obviously didn't have the opportunity to speak with Gonzalo Segares. Luckily, Denis Hamlett did speak to the Fire left back and I asked how Gonzalo is doing.
"He's doing good," said Hamlett. "He said he's tired (he's been on the road for a month in five or six different hotels) but he's excited to be back here in Chicago and the Gold Cup is going well for him."
A children's choir from Uganda watched the National Team practice inside Toyota Park today and after training they gave a great performance for the players and coaches.
The group, which provides the kids (all of whom are orphans) with full funding for education through college, is run by Bob Bradley's college roommate and is in the states to raise money for the program.
It was really cool to see them out there though and their performance was actually quite beautiful. The kids definitely have some talent and they seemed to be having a great time too, getting autographs from the players (Jon Busch gave one of the kids his gloves...) and kicking the ball around on the Toyota Park field.
While none of the Fire players or staff will get to check out the Gold Cup Semifinals in person (they will be in Seattle) the team was excited that the 'Nats are in Chicago.
"I might head over to [the U.S. teams] hotel today," said Ward. "Robbie Rogers is a good friend so I'll go over and say hi."