The Fire returned to training yesterday in preparation for another critically important match against Sporting Kansas City. Also returning to practice were vital parts of the club's attack and depth, Patrick Nyarko and Chris Rolfe. Nyarko has missed the last two games due to concussion symptoms and Rolfe missed the New England game after coming on as a substitute the previous week versus Montreal. Both participated fully but may not start on Friday. Nyarko in particular is very important as a creator especially if they continue to play with two holding midfielders in the middle forcing Mike Magee deeper into midfield to retrieve the ball like he did on Saturday in New England.
No official final word has crept out yet on the status of two key cogs in the Sporting attack as of yet. Graham Zusi and Kei Kamara were absent in their 1-0 loss in San Jose this past weekend. Zusi has resumed full training but Kamara looks likely to miss his second straight match. Striker Claudio Bieler was taken out of the Earthquakes game in the 56th minute but it didn't appear to be injury related. Bieler has nine goals on the season but is currently in the midst of a five game drought. Sporting has lost three of its last four MLS match-ups.
The Fire dropped a 2-1 decision to Kansas City on July 7 at Toyota Park and didn't play badly in the first half of that game although the substitutions of Rolfe and Nyarko hampered the attack in the second half. Zusi scored on what was probably an unintentional shot that was meant to be a cross and Benny Feilhaber provided the difference after some sloppy set piece defending.
Without Bakary Soumare in this match it seems that Hunter Jumper is the current favorite to get the start in the middle with Jalil Anibaba staying out wide. Jumper has played in the middle during reserve and friendly matches and has actually looked better at that spot than he has at left back. Soumare was red carded at the conclusion of the Revs match for an altercation with New England's trainer. There is no word yet on whether or not the MLS Disciplinary Committee will take further action.
Frank Klopas and Leo Percovich were tossed from the New England game and won't be on the sideline for this match. Mike Matkovich will take over the in-game duties for Klopas.
Third kit contest
According to Jeff Crandall via twitter the Fire are "in the process of identifying finalists" and the five top designs "should be revealed next week."
Around the league
There are two west coast matches tonight and one of them is a marquee match up. Chivas USA hosts FC Dallas in a game featuring the 8th and 9th place clubs in the West but the one to watch will be Real Salt Lake at Portland. A Timbers win would tie them with RSL at the top of the table in the Western Conference.
Chivas USA 2 FC Dallas 1
Portland 2 Real Salt Lake 1
Season record 107/228 47%