The Fire will have an opportunity to reach the seventh US Open Final in club history but they'll have to beat a team they have yet to defeat in any competition. Since coming into the league in 2009 the Fire are 0-7-3 against Seattle including a loss in 2011's US Open Cup Final.
If the Fire are to reach a seventh USOC Final they'll have to do it without Mike Magee who is unavailable due to a red card ejection in the quarter final game against Atlanta. Without Magee the Fire will need to shuffle a bit in the attacking positions but Frank Yallop doesn't foresee making many other changes to the line-up that defeated New York this weekend. "I don't think there will be much change but Mike is obviously a big part of this team moving forward," said Yallop this morning during a conference call with local media. "We seem to create chances in each game we've had, other than a couple, and this is no different. It's about taking our chances."
A move to relocate Jeff Larentowicz from midfield to centerback has coincided with the team's best defensive stretch of the season registering two clean sheets in the last three starts. Bakary Soumare got the nod next to Larentowicz against the Red Bulls and the pairing seemed to work as the Fire limited a potent New York attack to very few chances. "I was proud of Baky and I don't usually use those words but I was," said Yallop. "It's been hard for him. It's been up and down and we've conceded goals and they were not always his fault. I was just looking for the right combination and trying to get the best out of our guys."
The line up moves and benching of Soumare and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado after a 5-1 loss in San Jose also seem to have jump started the locker room a bit. "I'm not afraid of changing things and that's important to know. I think guys are starting to realize that if they're going to play they're going to have to play to a high standard and that's not only Baky," said Yallop. ""We've tried to change the mentality a little bit to make sure we're solid (defensively) and we've done that. Now we want to venture forward a little bit more."
The Sounders are heavy favorites given that the game is on turf and Seattle has been at or near the top of the league for most of the season but Yallop still believes the Fire can win. "We're coming in here very confident that we can come out with a victory and there's no other way of doing it. I see a difference in our mentality over the last 5 games since the San Jose debacle. We're going all out to try and get this win tomorrow and hopefully we can."
Time to give up on Jones?
On Sunday night, Yallop said he was hoping to get some news on MLS' negotiations with Jermaine Jones. Two days later there's still nothing new to report. "Nothing," said Yallop. "We're still at a stalemate. The league is too, but I think there are other clubs interested. We put an offer in that's fair and we've not heard anything back from the player or the agent. It's at a stalemate right now."
The Fire are still interested in Jones but are not involved in the direct contract negotiations as every player technically signs with the league. "We'd love to still have him but it's out of our hands. It's with MLS and Richard Motzkin, who's the agent and that's basically the communication between those two."
Should Jones sign with MLS, the Fire would apparently still need to maneuver into a top allocation spot in order to bring him to Chicago. Whether or not this maneuvering would require a trade with Columbus or DC United, who currently sit on top of the DP allocation order that MLS has yet to clarify poses yet another hurdle for getting him to the Fire. "If he gets signed then we have to deal with that next step and as of right now he's not signed with the league," said Yallop.
The Fire felt they were close to reaching an accord with Jones before the transfer window closed but that hasn't progressed despite reports that an offer was rejected. Yallop was hesitant to say that Chicago is moving on but did indicate that the time is near for a decision to be made. "We felt we were going to get him and here we are. Two and a half weeks later and we're no further along than we were back then. There were other signings through the window that we could have pursued but that's before we move on. We're still waiting but at some point we've got to move forward and get somebody in to help us."
Is it time to move on and plan for other options?
"We've got to get to that point. At some point we've got to know he's not going to sign. That was a problem through the window. We expected and felt that down the line through negotiations that we were pretty close to what we looked at," said Yallop.
That time may be very near with New England reportedly interested in acquiring Jones. The Revolution may have been paving the way for something to happen by dealing Saer Sene and his $163,683.00 guaranteed salary to New York in exchange for Andre Akpan ($51,333.00 guaranteed) and allocation money this morning. The Revs would likely still need to part with something in order to move up in one of the allocation orders and increase the bid to meet Jones' salary demands. It's also possible that Jones is looking for a shorter stay in MLS than originally thought.
Gordon an option?
Yallop was asked if he had considered San Jose's Alan Gordon as a possible trade acquisition before he was dealt to Los Angeles yesterday. Although it was considered it didn't sound like discussions with San Jose got very far. "I had some conversations with Mark (Watosn) but moving to LA was the best thing for him as a player," said Yallop.
"Alan had some injuries but I think he's over those. We had some interest for sure because I've always like him but we don't have any allocation money and he went for allocation money."
Gordon is making $206,667.00 this season after signing a new deal in December of 2012 and has no goals in 15 games this year. He scored four last season after a career year (13 goals) in 2012.