The Fire, fresh off of Wednesday night's weak performance in a 2-0 loss to the L.A. Galaxy, will be looking to reverse their fortunes Sunday evening, when they take on the Colorado Rapids at Toyota Park (5 p.m. on My50).
The match will be the second time the Fire and Rapids have met in 2009. The first match was a good one for the Fire as they went into Dick's Sporting Goods Park and took all three points from the Rapids with a convincing 2-1 win.
However, to think that the Fire will simply beat the Rapids with relative ease again would be a huge mistake. For one thing, the Fire is currently slumping - they've lost 3 of their last 4 in all competitions - and - given Wednesday's abysmal performance -- I'm not too optimistic that they will get out of their rut come Sunday night.
A second - and more significant - point is that the Fire will feature a completely different lineup on Sunday than the team that got the win in Denver. At least five starters (more likely six, when you include Baggio Husidic...) will be missing from the team that defeated Colorado on July 4th and the Rapids will be looking to take advantage of what should be a relatively inexperienced Fire lineup.
One position that the Rapids will undoubtedly look to exploit will be the Fire's outside backs. Austin Washington and Brandon Prideaux - neither of whom looked very good against L.A. - will likely start as fullbacks Sunday night and they must hold it down if the
Fire wants to keep Colorado from running wild.
One Colorado attacker that the Fire will have to pay close attention to on Sunday will be winger Omar Cummings. The speedy Cummings - who missed the clubs' first match while on international duty - could very easily torch the Fire's outside backs (especially the slower Prideaux...) with his speed and that could spell very bad things for the Fire.
For this reason, I think it would be a good idea for Denis Hamlett to give Mike Banner the start at fullback in place of Prideaux. Prideaux's pace is no match for Cummings and - considering the matchup -- I think the younger, quicker Banner would be more
effective than Prideaux on Sunday.
Another key for the Fire on Sunday is to get the attack back on track. The Fire registered ZERO shots on goal against L.A. and if they are considering scoring any goals against Colorado (quite obviously...) that statistic will have to improve.
One way to do this would be to depart from the direct, long ball offense that was employed on Wednesday night. Without injured forward Brian McBride in the game (and in my opinion, even with him...) the long ball strategy does absolutely nothing for the Fire except eliminate any threat that the shorter, faster Patrick Nyarko could pose.
So, I've said my piece on Sunday's game, given you guys some keys to the match, which only leaves me with one thing left...
**The Prediction -**
I'm going with a 2-2 tie. Chris Rolfe and Nyarko will score for the Fire while the dangerous duo of Cummings and Conor Casey will each notch one for the Rapids.
Special prediction here, Cummings will pull a Landon Donovan and get his goal after running right by the Fire back line.
Pestilence - who predicted a 2-1 Galaxy win - won Wednesday night's closest-to-the-final score contest, earning a big congratulations from me.