The first leg of the Ljungberg Cup kicks off with the Fire hoping to recover from a defensive debacle in Houston. The challenge won't be an easy one with Wilman Conde unavailable due to yellow card accumulation and Dasan Robinson out with a hamstring injury. The Fire back line will consist of at least two new starters from the Houston match and Gonzalo Segares may be moving inside to compensate for the loss of Conde.
Seattle will prepare for the battle after losing at home to Monterrey on Wednesday night in Champion's League play while playing most of their regular starters. Starting left back Leo Gonzalez will miss the match after a red card in the team's last MLS match against Chivas. Jeff Parke and Patrick Ianni have been the central pairing in back with former starter Tyrone Marshall now coming in off the bench. James Riley fills out the defense on the right side.
Seattle struggled earlier this season with Osvaldo Alonso missing several games due to injury. The former USL star has returned to pair with Nathan Sturgis in central midfield. While neither is particularly flashy or dangerous offensively both have been solid. Sanna Nyassi on the right side has played reasonably well of late although he has yet to score in MLS play this season. One of Seattle's Designated Players, Alvaro Fernandez has looked good since joining the team in July and started their last MLS match on the left side in place of the injured Steve Zakuani. If Zakuani is able to play the Sounders will be even more dangerous if Fernandez is able to pair with him on the pitch at the same time. Zakuani is their second leading scorer with seven goals and they are not nearly as lethal without him in the eleven.
Seattle's main man all season has been Fredy Montero. The Columbian leads the team with an impressive 8 goals and 9 assists. Their other DP signing, Blaise Nkufo is the target forward creating space for Montero to operate in but he has yet to score in MLS play in four matches. These two will create some havoc for the Fire defense on set pieces.
Kasey Keller is the captain, leader, and goalkeeper. The forty year old Keller is still a solid stopper.
The bench features Pat Noonan, Miguel Montano, Roger Levesque, Peter Vagenas, and former Fire Nate Jacqua.
Carlos De Los Cobos has several tactical and positional decisions to ponder due to injury and suspension. It seems likely that he will opt to move Gonzalo Segares inside to replace Conde while Krzysztof Krol resumes his role at left back. Steve Kinney will replace the injured Robinson at right back while I'd expect that CJ Brown will play the other central role in lieu of rookie Kwame Watson-Siriboe. De Los Cobos has toyed with the idea of starting Watson-Siriboe but entrusting the defensive responsibilities to a rookie defender, a rookie keeper and another new center half seems too risky.
Marco Pappa will also likely be a game time decision since he is nursing a hamstring injury picked up in training mid week. Logan Pause and Baggio Husidic are the likely central pairing although John Thorrington is finally available for selection after another long injury spell. Patrick Nyarko may not be ready for a full 90 but he will see the field at some point in this match. Mike Banner also remains an option to start as does Calen Carr, although Carr seems more likely as a sub up top.
Freddie Ljungberg will continue to play the central attacking role in his return to Seattle. He will surely be a focal point for both sides during this match. De Los Cobos has some options in front now that Collins John is fully recovered from a hamstring injury. Either Brian McBride or John could start this match.
Sean Johnson appears to be fully recovered and ready to go in goal.
Seattle is enjoying a six match unbeaten run in MLS play with wins over Houston, San Jose, Colorado, and DC. They also managed a tie with FC Dallas as part of that run. They are also 5-4-2 at home which isn't that impressive considering the advantage they possess with the crowd in Qwest Field.
Seattle has been mediocre offensively for most of the season and if Zakuani is not able to go they will have some difficulty in midfield although Zakuani has been removed from the injury list so he should be available.
The Fire's revamped back line will be tested but not enough.
Fire 1 Sounders 1
CHICAGO FIRE -- OUT: DF Dasan Robinson (R hamstring strain)
SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC -- OUT: MF David Estrada (R hamstring strain/R first toe sprain); MF Brad Evans (R patellar tendon); DF Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (L ACL); FW Pat Noonan (adductor strain); MF Peter Vagenas (R quadriceps strain)
The Rest of The Field
Crew 1 FC Dallas 1
RSL 2 TFC 2
Revs 2 Philly 1
NY 2 SJ 0
Rapids 2 Dynamo 1
LA 1 KC 0
Chivas 1 DC 0