After defeating the Rochester Rhinos in US Open Cup play on Tuesday the Fire have travelled across the country to face a struggling Chivas USA team that has lost three in a row. Since winning three of four matches in late April/early May the Goats have gone 1-4-2 while allowing 12 goals in that span.
Defensively, Robin Fraser has settled on a back four without veteran Jimmy Conrad, who hasn't played since the second game of the season due to a concussion. The centerbacks in front of goalkeeper Dan Kennedy are Michael Umana and Heath Pearce. Pearce has played every minute of every game after being acquired from FC Dallas and moved inside. Rookie Zarek Valentin and veteran Ante Jazic are the right and left backs respectively. That duo seems to be one that the Fire's outside wingers can exploit with speed. Michael Lahoud has also started eight games in the back and could get a shot.
The middle of pitch should be fairly evenly matched with Paulo Nagamura and Nick LaBrocca in central midfield against the Fire's combination which should see the return of Logan Pause. On the outside Jorge Flores and Ben Zemanski aren't exactly dynamic and should prove to be good match ups for the Fire's fullbacks. Chivas is not particularly deep but does have Panchito Mendoza back with them after a short stint in Mexico with the big goats.
At the forward spot Chivas has gotten decent production from their top three front runners. Justin Braun does provide an inviting target at 6'-3" and leads Chivas with 4 goals. Marcos Mondaini, who served a four game suspension for his ankle breaking tackle on Javier Morales has scored 3 times. The well travelled Alejandro Moreno has put 3 in the net as well but he is away at Copa America with Venezuela.
After playing with a patchwork back line in Rochester we should see the usual foursome on Saturday night of Jalil Anibaba, Yamith Cuesta, Cory Gibbs, and Gonzalo Segares. Josip Mikulic is ready and fit but the Cuesta/Gibbs combination has probably played well enough to merit continued starts although a misplayed ball against New York and a blown offside against New England which led to goals should plant the seed for replacement if mistakes continue.
Team captain Logan Pause should be back in the line up after missing the last two games due to a concussion suffered in New England. Pause has been training with Peter Cech-like head gear as protection. Daniel Paladini is out of this match with yellow card accumulation so the "attacking" mid spot will probably go to Baggio Husidic again. Neither Husidic or Corben Bone have distinguished themselves recently in the middle so this may be a spot where Klopas does some experimenting . Marco Pappa should be a starter along with Patrick Nyarko and Dominic Oduro but one of them will need to move forward in order to get them all on the pitch. It's possible that we could see Pappa drop into a withdrawn forward role at some point ahead of Cristian Nazirit or Diego Chaves.
Klopas has some options since both Oduro and Nyarko can also play forward. Oduro has had some tough misses but overall his finishing has been better than advertised. Nyarko's final touch is still a work in progress which probably makes him better suited to stay on the wings as a playmaker.
Gibbs, Oduro, and Segares are all facing a one game ban upon receipt of a yellow card.
Fire : OUT: Mike Banner M (L achilles tendinitis), Steven Kinney D (R achilles tendinitis), Marko Maric M (L deltoid sprain)
Chivas : DOUBTFUL : Jimmy Conrad D (concussion); QUESTIONABLE: Ante Jazic D (R calf strain); PROBABLE: Ben Zemanski M (R calf strain)
Referee: Andrew Chapin
Chivas has struggled at home going only 2-4-2 at the Home Depot Center. Both teams are in desperate need of three points as they try to keep playoff hopes alive. Dare I say another tie?
Fire 1 Chivas USA 1
The Rest of the League
Philadelphia 1 DC 1 - Dwayne DeRosario makes his debut with United but the Union generally play pretty tight defensively.
Columbus 0 FC Dallas 2 - The Hoops are on a roll and Brek Shea seems to be scoring every week.
New York 2 San Jose 2 - The Red Bulls are in some flux and still need a goalkeeper and possibly another defender if they want to truly compete against the west.
Sporting KC 1 Portland 2 - KC is on a good run but Portland needs to regain their mojo at home before John Spencer has a meltdown.
Houston 0 Colorado 1 - A bit of a toss up but I'll go with the Rapids at home.