The Fire appear to be catching another club at just the right time with the Colorado Rapids coming into Toyota Park at less than full strength. The Rapids weren't expected to contend for much in the West this season but at 5-5-5 they've overachieved amid a string of injuries and reliance on several young players. In this contest they'll be without several contributors who have logged starters minutes this season. Leading scorer Atiba Harris is suspended due to a red card and midfielder Hendry Thomas has been banned for one game by the MLS Disciplinary Committee. Coach Oscar Pareja has also been whacked by the MLSDC for his actions during a 2-1 loss to San Jose this weekend and won't be in attendance.
The Rapids are starting to get some players back however. Jamie Castrillon and Martin Rivero, two key offensive weapons are finally available after dealing with injuries. Both were second half substitutions against the Earthquakes (Castrillon's 2013 debut) and could be moved into starting roles in this match. Pablo Mastroeni was dealt to Los Angeles on Monday but he's not been much more than a part-time player this season.
The Fire were idle this past weekend but they now face a tough stretch of three games in the span of a week. Both Colorado and Chicago have upcoming MLS games on Saturday and the Fire also have the US Open Cup quarterfinal match to consider next Wednesday night.
Projected Line Ups
Irwin; Klute, Moor, Wynne, Mullan; Powers, Sturgis, Rivero; Brown, Buddle, Castrillon
Johnson; Segares, Soumare, Berry, Anibaba; Duka, Pause, Alex, Nyarko; Rolfe, Magee
Colorado will move Marvell Wynne inside again in the absence of Shane O'Neill, who has started 8 games at centerback but is away with the USMNT U-20's in Turkey. Colorado generally prefers a 4-3-3 formation which could open up space for the Chicago attack like it did in the second half against Portland who runs it much better than the Rapids do. Deshorn Brown, Clint Irwin, Chris Klute and Dillon Powers have impressed as MLS rookies.
OUT: Arne Friedrich (hip tightness), Steven Kinney (R quad strain)
OUT: Diego Calderon (R knee surgery), Brenton Griffiths (R shoulder dislocation), Matt Pickens (L arm fracture); QUESTIONABLE: Jamie Smith (R groin strain)
The Fire are riding a 5 match unbeaten run (including 2 USOC victories) and I don't see much reason to believe they won't make it six. They might have been a bit too reverential in the first half against Portland last week and the delayed start to the Columbus USOC match may have been partially the cause for a sluggish first half but they managed to get positive results in both games. An uncharacteristic quick start may put Colorado on their heels and make this one a little more comfortable than the last two matches. Colorado will be without important starters, their head coach, and they're trying to ease two more regulars back into the line-up. That's not even mentioning their issues in getting to Chicago in the first place.
Fire 2 Rapids 0
The rest of the league
There are three other games tonight. As always I'll take a blind stab at those as well.
Montreal 1 Houston 1
Vancouver 2 Chivas USA 0
Los Angeles 2 Portland 1
Season to date 65/138