The Colorado Rapids come into Toyota Park riding a string of five consecutive 1-0 matches, an MLS record for consecutive matches with that score line. Colorado is 3-2 in that same period and currently on a three game winnning streak. The Rapids have been solid defensively all season, only allowing seven goals (their season high in goals against was 2 against the Fire on April 3).
The Rapids have a made few changes since the last match against the Fire. Defender Kosuke Kimura is out with a broken ankle and they have since added former KC Wizard designated player Claudio Lopez to the roster. Julien Baudet, Drew Moor, Marvell Wynne, and Danny Earls have been the starting defensive back line since Kimura's injury.
Since human red card Pablo Mastroeni is out this week while serving another card suspension the Rapids will likely turn to Mehdi Ballouchy to fill his position in the middle of the pitch with Jeff Larentowicz. Wells Thompson and Colin Clark are the other usual starters, although they have alternated starting spots when Mastroeni is available. Ross LaBauex and Jamie Smith have also seen time in midfield and could get the call.
Omar Cummings and Conor Casey form one of the more dangerous forward duos in MLS although they're suffering through a bit of a dry spell. They both scored against the Fire in the 2-2 draw in Colorado on April 3 and have been pretty silent since then. Claudio Lopez has been used mostly as a sub since joining the team in April.
Matt Pickens has started every match in goal this season and has played well.
The Fire's usual back four of Conde, Brown, Krol, and Robinson should remain intact. I would also expect that Carlos De Los Cobos will not make any changes to the line-up he used on Saturday against Philadelphia. Pause and Husidic in the middle with Justin Mapp centrally advanced behind Brian McBride as the lone forward is likely what we'll see again. The only change we could see is which side of the pitch Patrick Nyarko starts on. Marvell Wynne is one of the fastest players in MLS on the right side for Colorado but Nyarko had some success against him in Colorado. If he starts on the right side he will be matched up with left back Danny Earls. Marco Pappa will also have an opportunity to show De Los Cobos some consistency after a decent effort in his return to the starting eleven against Philadelphia.
De Los Cobos started both Collins John and Brian McBride at forward in Colorado in April but he should surely continue to deploy a 4-5-1 (despite John's uncertain health status) if for no other reason than to begin establishing some sort of consistency.
Chicago Fire - OUT : Calen Carr (R quad strain), John Thorrington (L quad strain), Tim Ward (L calf strain)
Colorado Rapids - OUT : Kosuke Kimura (L ankle stress fracture), Ciaran O'Brien (L hip strain), Ross Schunk (R ACL tear); PROBABLE: Julien Baudet (L knee strain), Jamie Smith (R hamstring strain)
Suspended: Pablo Mastroeni (red card vs CLB)
The Fire have had a majority of their success against teams employing a 4-4-2 formation this season but Colorado is solid defensively. The Fire need three points to close out a stretch of three consecutive home games before the World Cup break and need to start establishing Toyota Park as a viable home advantage. Colorado is 3-2-0 on the road with victories against weaker sides Chivas, New England, and DC.
Fire 2 Rapids 1
MLS Action Before the Break
The undefeated Los Angles Galaxy also play on Wednesday night. L.A. will travel to Utah to take on champions Real Salt Lake in what should be a very intriguing match up. Will the Gals finally lose?
RSL 1 Galaxy 0...........they have to lose some time.
Ljundberg on MLS
Sounders midfielder Freddie Ljungberg was asked about the quality of play in MLS and he had an interesting reply.
'The standard is different, of course. I'd say it's like the Dutch League. There's nothing between the MLS and the Premier League in terms of work-rate, speed and strength but the difference is in the decisive moments, where the level is higher in the Premier League.
'But if people think they can come here and relax, they're wrong.
'They wanted me to teach the younger players things like when to press, when to release the ball. I've always loved the tactical side of the game."
The game preview on mlssoccer.com lists one of the key match-ups as "Baggio Husidic vs Pablo Mastroeni".