After a loss in Portland on Sunday the Fire have a chance to pick up points against another struggling team when FC Dallas visits Toyota Park on Wednesday night. Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman has had a juggling act on his hands through their first thirteen games due to injuries and suspensions. This match will be no different.
Although Kevin Hartman is expected to return their back line continues to take hits. Hernan Pertuz, who was filling in at center back for the injured Ugo Ihemelu left the match against Philadelphia with an injury and will likely be out for an extended period of time. The usual right back, Zach Loyd was out of that match as well due to suspension but he'll be available for selection although he could be moved into the middle with George John. Rookie Matt Hedges started the Philadelphia match and will also be an option at half back. Jair Benitez is the first choice left back but both Pertuz and Carlos Rodriguez (another player recovering from injury) have filled in for him this season. A back line consisting of Benitez, Hedges, John, and Loyd is reasonably close to Hyndman's first choice defense however, and they should be all available for this match.
Midfield is also a bit of a shambles with Brek Shea, Ricardo Villar, Bobby Warshaw, David Ferreira, and Fabian Castillo all out of action. Hyndman typically favored a 4-5-1 with Ferreira in the withdrawn role when healthy but that has changed somewhat out of necessity. Andrew Jacobson is now filling the playmaking role vacated by Ferreira with three midfielders behind him in front of Daniel Hernandez in a holding role. James Marcellin, Jackson, and Bryan Leyva seem to be the most likely options to complete the midfield. Marcellin can also drop back next to Hernandez, which is probably what we'll see in this match. Castillo appears to be close and could see some action in this match although he's listed as questionable on the injury report.
Without many other options on the attacking end, Blas Perez will be the single forward but he's a dangerous one. The Fire had two mishaps on set pieces in Portland that cost them a result and Perez will be one to watch on dead ball situations. If they can neutralize Perez, there shouldn't be much in terms of dangerous chances coming from the remainder of this side. "They look to play soccer and build up play. They're different from Portland which has a very direct style of play," said Frank Klopas. "They're a big team and they're very good on set pieces also so we have to be alert and focused and do a better job than we did in the last game," he said.
Klopas indicated that he may not make many changes to the Fire eleven although the short turnaround and upcoming fixtures could play a part in his selections for this game. "We'll assess how things go from game to game. Some guys are little bit different when you're playing Sunday-Wednesday and you're travelling but we may not make any changes. We'll see where everybody is (Wednesday)," said Klopas.
Dominic Oduro left the game in Portland in the 60th minute after experiencing some tightness in his right hamstring. Oduro may be a game time decision depending on how he feels before the match after a light work out this morning.
Chris Rolfe participated in running and ball drills with the first team this morning but says he's still experiencing some pain in the injured ankle although it may be something he just will need to play through. "We've been working hard the last four days with the ball. There's still no contact and I haven't done anything with the entire team but we're definitely making progress. It's kind of day to day," said Rolfe. The returning forward seems to be days away from making his 2012 debut though. "(Fire trainer) Tony Jouaux's got a plan for us. We're progressing every day so that we don't over do it but I try to challenge myself every time I come out". "If I take care of this the right way it should be fine in the next couple of days," he said.
Rolfe may not be available for the FC Dallas match but it seems the Columbus game this Saturday is a realistic target. "He looks pretty good today but he still has a little bit of pain warming up. It's just a matter of days before he's able to start training full on with the team, so that's a very positive sign. He could be available for Columbus depending on how he progresses this week," said Klopas.
"If he was ready (for Dallas) I'd definitely think about it but he hasn't really trained with the team. He's going to be doing more with the ball tomorrow (Wednesday) as far as just playing and small sided stuff and we're building for him to be available for Saturday," said Klopas optimistically.
FC DALLAS -- OUT: MF David Ferreira (R foot surgery); MF Ricardo Villar (R foot strain); MF Andrew Wiedeman (sports hernia repair); MF Bobby Warshaw (R foot fracture); DF Ugo Ihemelu (concussion symptoms); DF Alex Lee (R hip strain); DF Hernan Pertuz (R ankle sprain); QUESTIONABLE: FW Fabian Castillo (L ankle sprain); PROBABLE: MF Carlos Rodriguez (L elbow dislocation)
CHICAGO FIRE -- OUT: DF Cory Gibbs (R knee meniscus repair); MF Steven Kinney (R Achilles tendinitis); DF Arne Friedrich (R hamstring strain); QUESTIONABLE: FW Chris Rolfe (L ankle sprain)
FC Dallas is 0-4-1 on the road with 4 goals scored and 10 allowed. They're currently riding a seven game winless streak and are missing several influential players. That being said Dallas has never lost at Toyota Park and they have won here amid similar circumstances.
Last season's match in Bridgeview was played after the team lost the US Open Cup Final and Klopas thinks that could have played a role in the flat performance. "We wanted to put that game behind us but I think that game carried over from an emotional standpoint to the players. It was difficult," he said.
There should be no such hangover in this one.
Fire 2 FC Dallas 0
Third jersey production?
Section 8 Chicago has taken on the task of attempting to create a jersey styled after the long requested "City of Chicago flag" kit that the club used in 2005. Houston announcer Glenn Davis mentioned a limited production run of 300 for their third kit but indications are that the current output of Dynamo alternate jerseys is closer to 1,200 units.
Regardless of the actual number, be it 300 or 1,200 I think it's fairly safe to assume that a third Chicago kit manufactured by Adidas to replicate the '05 design would easily reach and surpass the numbers sold by the Dynamo. Section 8 Chicago may be able to reach the 300 number alone with their "unofficial" version. In larger numbers, the jersey itself is likely to be popular with non-Fire and non-soccer fans simply because of the "Chicago" theme associated with the design.
What better way to reach non-Fire fans in Chicago than by tapping in to the civic pride that comes from association with the City colors? The Fire's marketing theme this year is "Our City. Our Club". "Our City. Our Flag" - seems like a no-brainer to me.