Fire vs. Real Salt Lake: Match Preview

Cuauhtemoc Blanco

The Fire couldn't have asked for much more from last Saturday's 2-0 win over New England.

Advance in the Eastern Conference playoffs? Check.

Do it against a bitter rival? Check.

And do it all in style? Oh my, yes. Check.

That's what can happen when the Fire plays some of its most inspired soccer at the best time of year before a packed house at Toyota Park.

"It was a tremendous team effort to take care of New England," said Fire goalie Jon Busch. "I thought our boys came out and did a fantastic job from the front to the back... and obviously being at home in front of a packed house was absolutely amazing - the fans were tremendous."
Now the second seeded Fire is looking to recreate some of last week's home-field magic for Saturday's conference final against fourth seeded Real Salt Lake - against whom they are 1-0-1 this year. The game, which sold out on Thursday, will be the first Conference final in the four year history of Toyota Park and the first home Conference Final for the Fire since 2003.

"It seems like we've always played the Conference Final on the road," said Fire Head Coach Denis Hamlett. "We're real excited. We're looking forward to a real packed house our guys are going to be excited, going to be pumped for a great atmosphere and it'll be a great game."

The Fire will have a tough test against Real Salt Lake, who has won four of their last five, including two in a row in their first round series against regular season champions the Columbus Crew. Speedy forward Robbie Findley has been the engine behind Salt Lake's run to the Conference Final - scoring four goals in the team's last three games.

"You have to make sure you don't give up good situations where his speed can expose you," Hamlett said of Findley. "He's not just one guy's responsibility; it has to be a group as a whole. I think it's big to put pressure on their midfield so they can't play the types of balls that he likes to have. But he's a guy that's in good form right now and we'll be paying close attention to him."

Last week's hero Cuauhtemoc Blanco will finally be on the field against Real Salt Lake this weekend - he missed the two previous matches with RSL due to international duty/injury.

"He's such a competitor," Hamlett said of Blanco. "When he steps on the field he's about winning and I think he's brought that into our club since day one and you saw that in our last game in terms of his passion and intensity."

Last week's win - and the celebration that followed it - have some a bit worried that the Fire is in line for a mental letdown this week. The team is confident that they'll be all set come kick off though.

"I don't think you have to worry about that at all," Busch said of a possible letdown. "Everybody in that locker room knows that we're one step away from playing for a cup and if that's not motivation enough to bring into a game I don't know what else would motivate you."

But enough about all of this stuff, it's time for the official Fire Confidential match prediction. Here we go...

**The Prediction -**

I'm feeling a Fire victory in this one. I think that the team will again be energized by the crowd and that the home field will ultimately make the difference with the Fire winning 2-1 thanks to another late Blanco goal. I think Marco Pappa and Robbie Findley (it's like he has to keep that goal scoring streak alive...) will nab the other two goals - with Pappa's coming in the opening 45 minutes and Findley netting at the start of the second frame.

Commenter Bert was spot on with his prediction for last week's game, correctly predicting the Fire's 2-0 victory. See if you can steal his spot at the top this week with your prediction.

I'll be back tomorrow morning with a little wrap up of the Western Conference Final between Houston and L.A. that will be played tonight (10 p.m. on ESPN2) and another all-day blog. Enjoy your Friday.


Leave a comment
  • Is it Saturday yet?

  • I really wan the Fire to win. I got a feeling that this will be a long game. I don't think 90 minutes will be enought. That's why I think this will be a 3-2 game for the Fire...

  • 2-0 Fire

  • 1-0 Fire

  • 2-1 Fire.
    Cuah PK in the first half.
    Espindola strike just after the half.
    CJ Brown header off a corner late in the game to win it.

    Tense moments as Fire bunkers down but late red card for RSL for fouling Patrick Nyarko ices it.

    Is that specific enough?

  • It's looking like 1-0 Fire to me.

    Go Fire!!! I can't wait for tomorrow.

  • 1-0. I hate predicting against the Fire. I was halfway through a post about a 3-1 victory when I saw the light. Chivas game: I said 1-0 loss.
    1st leg: I said win
    2nd leg: I said loss
    I predicted wins 4 so many disappointments in the season. Don't worry, everybody, 1-0 RSL!

  • In reply to patrickhattrick:

    You're right.....I'm changing my pick to 4-0 RSL. Hamlett decides to dress for the game and scores 4 own goals. ;)

  • In reply to cesba:

    No, seriously though, I predicted 1-0 fire in game 1 (forgot to predict game 2), and 2-0 Chivas for the final season match. 2-1 for the 0-0 draw against New England, and I'm bot quite sure how much farther my losing streak dates back, but I'm pretty sure it's at least a few games. 1-0 RSL, seriously.

  • In reply to patrickhattrick:

    4-0 FIRE!!! This will be a beatdown of massive proportions.

  • I would absolutely love to. However, with all the writing that I'll be doing tonight that would be pretty much impossible. Maybe I'll give that a try next year.

Leave a comment