The Fire have yet to beat Seattle Sounders FC in MLS regular season play, going 0-3-3 against them since the club joined the league in 2009. A 2-0 loss in the US Open Cup Final last season also spoiled a shot at possible redemption for a second consecutive season without a playoff appearance for the Fire.
Kasey Keller played a huge role in several of those matches but he's no longer around. At least not on the pitch, he's currently part of Seattle's broadcast team. Sigi Schmid brought in Austrian goalkeeper Michael Gspurning to replace Keller but an undisclosed ailment has kept him from full participation in training in this week. Although he's expect to start Gspurning will be replaced by second year player Bryan Meredith if the mystery ailment continues to hinder the incumbent.
Another new acquisition, Adam Johansson started the Sounders' opening match at right back before a hamstring injury sidelined him in favor of Zach Scott. Johansson is also expected to return for this match and should complete a back line that features Patrick Ianni and Jeff Parke in the middle with Leo Gonzalez on the left side. Schmid also has players on the bench who have started for the club in centerback Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and left back Marc Burch.
In midfield Osvaldo Alonso continues to be their linchpin from the holding position and Seattle will be strengthened by the return of playmaker Mauro Rosales on the right side. Brad Evans should start in the advanced central role after recovering from a hamstring injury. On the left side, the Sounders will be without Alvaro Fernandez and it's likely that 2012 leading scorer David Estrada will replace him at that spot after playing 60 minutes at left mid in a reserve match on Monday. Roger Levesque and Alex Caskey are also midfield options.
Estrada started the first four matches of the season in tandem with Fredy Montero while former Kansas City Wizard and US International Eddie Johnson was unavailable. Johnson started the last league match (a 1-0 win over Colorado) and will likely start up top with Montero in this match. The Sounders have a crowded May fixture list and Schmid has hinted that he will rotate players but I'm not expecting the juggling to start in this match since Seattle had a bye last weekend.
The Fire defense will be the same unit that struggled a bit in Toronto last weekend. Sean Johnson will probably need to be much worse than he was against TFC to force a move back to Paolo Tornaghi. There also isn't much chance that there is a change in the Segares, Anibaba, Friedrich, Gargan foursome.
The Fire's midfield could see one change on the left side. Marco Pappa played in an international friendly for Guatemala on Wednesday night and probably won't start after travelling back and forth during midweek. Daniel Paladini has seen plenty of time with the first team during training this week and could start with an eye towards a more defensive match up against the influential Rosales. Rafael Robayo is also an option although he quite frankly has failed to impress. Logan Pause, Pavel Pardo, and Sebastian Grazzini will complete the starting eleven. It will be interesting to watch how Grazzini fares against Alonso and the Seattle defense since his absence in last season's USOC Final proved to be fatal to the Fire's hopes of capturing a fifth Open Cup title.
With Chris Rolfe out of this match nursing the ankle injury he suffered during his second training session since re-joining the club, Patrick Nyarko and Dominic Oduro will hope to continue to wreak the havoc they caused against Toronto. Seattle is no TFC though, so space should not be as forthcoming as it was last Saturday afternoon.
Injury Report (updated)
SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC -- OUT: GK Josh Ford (R knee stress fracture); GK Andrew Weber (L ankle sprain); DF Michael Tetteh (L hamstring strain); MF Steve Zakuani (R leg fracture); FW Babayele Sodade (R knee ACL tear); DOUBTFUL: MF Alvaro Fernandez (R quad strain); QUESTIONABLE: DF Patrick Ianni (lower back pain); PROBABLE: DF Adam Johansson (L hamstring strain); MF Mauro Rosales (R knee sprain); MF Brad Evans (R hamstring strain)
CHICAGO FIRE -- OUT: DF Cory Gibbs (R knee meniscus tear); MF Steven Kinney (R posterior tibialis tendinitis); QUESTIONABLE: FW Chris Rolfe (L ankle sprain)
Seattle is 3-1-1 on the season with their only road match resulting in a scoreless draw in DC on April 7. They're coming off of an off week and have had a chance to recuperate from several injuries although game action is the only real way to fully recuperate from absences due to injury. The Fire have had a difficult time themselves getting up to full speed due to MLS scheduling quirks that have forced two unfortunate bye weeks in the first month and a half of the season while the rest of the league continued to play and gain momentum.
This should be a difficult match for both sides.......Fire 1 Sounders 1
The Rest of the League
Portland 1 Montreal 2 - Jesse Marsch will be eyeing his second win of the season against a Portland team that is 0-2-1 on the road.
New England 2 NewYork 3 - The Red Bulls are a complete mess on the defensive side of the pitch and will field a patch work back four in this match. It wouldn't surprise me if the Revs got a result but Henry and Co. should be able to outscore another opponent this time.
San Jose 1 Philadelphia 1 - The Earthquakes continue to get results and the Union are coming off a red card marred match at Chivas last weekend.
Houston 2 DC 2 - This should be one to watch especially if Brad Davis manages to get back into the line up for Houston.
Vancouver 0 Columbus 1 - Both clubs have managed to score only six goals apiece through their first seven matches of the season. One goal should be the difference.
Toronto 0 Real Salt Lake 2 - Aron Winter will continue to insist that TFC will make the playoffs after this one.
Chivas USA 1 Colorado 2 - The Goats have been better than expected with three road wins this season but the Rapids are hoping to have Conor Casey back.
FC Dallas 0 Los Angeles 1 - FCD played on Wednesday night and the Galaxy may be starting to get it together.