Fire v Sounders match preview

Both teams are missing key players and the Fire have never beaten Seattle. Martin Tomszak takes a look at how they can do it this time.

What Are They About? Seattle Sounders

“One point is better than none”. Even the most ardent of optimists had difficulty using that phrase after the Chicago Fire drew the Houston Dynamo last Friday. At this point of the season with the team rooted firmly to the bottom of the standings, wins are what is needed and a win is what Chicago will be looking for as they take on the Western Conference leading Seattle Sounders on Saturday at Toyota Park. With both sides far from full strength, the match could serve as the perfect opportunity for Chicago to get a much needed boost in the standings. But will they take advantage of the situation?

Form Guide (Last 5 Matches): W-L-L-L-W

Previous Match: A 1-0 home victory against D.C United.

Formation in the last match: 4-4-2; Frei; Mears, Marshall, Scott, Remick; Roldan, Alonso, Pineda, Thomas; Neagle, Barret

Strengths:  Let’s face it, the Sounders are good. They are well on their way to defending the Supporters Shield title sitting on thirty two points from nineteen matches, just three points behind D.C United with two games in hand.  That’s more than twice as many points as the Fire. Clearly they have a strong squad and therefore most of the focus of this preview will be on how Chicago can overcome this disadvantage. That being said, let’s examine a few bright spots.

Chance Creation and Clinical Finishing: Seattle has scored twenty-five goals this season off of eighty-two shots on target. Only Columbus and L.A have scored more than the Sounders. These twenty-five goals are spread among mostly four scorers (Dempsey and Martins 7, Neagle 4, Barrett 3) with assists from eight. So while their forwards are clinical, their whole team contributes to creating goal scoring opportunities.

Style of Play: While many MLS fans love to hate Seattle, it is undeniable that they have created a very unique style of play under Sigi Schmid and it’s one that gets the job done. They play a fast paced, physical brand of soccer that leaves many teams tired, bruised and broken after matches. Given that the Sounders have tied just two matches all season, Schmid reiterates that he would rather go all out in a match in the hope of getting a win than settling for draws (perhaps a wise lesson for Chicago). To achieve their league leading stat of 10 victories, Seattle has alternated between a 4-4-2 and a 4-2-3-1 this season depending on available personal and opposition.

No matter the formation, Schmid has an interesting mix of very creative midfielders (Lamar Neagle, Thomas, Marco Pappa, Cristian Roldan, and Gonzalo Pineda) that spur on attacks alongside some stalwart bulldog-like defensive midfielders (Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Andy Rose, and Erik Friberg) that control the middle of the pitch. Injuries and call ups shouldn’t hurt the Sounders as much as some Fire fans will hope.

Weaknesses:

Missing Players: Clint Dempsey, Brad Evans, and Marco Pappa have been called up to their respective national teams for the Gold Cup. Obafemi Martins and Andres Correa are out with injuries while Steven Frei is questionable with a shoulder strain. This means the players responsible for 16 of 25 goals and 15 of 24 assists will be missing on Saturday.

Statistics don’t lie: A bit of sunshine on a cloudy day for Fire fans, Seattle has lost three of its four away matches to Eastern Conference opponents this season with the lone victory coming against NYCFC on May 3rd. While this by no means leads to an automatic victory for the Fire it is interesting to see that Seattle struggles on this side of the Mississippi. Let’s take a look at some more genuine weaknesses.

Attacking Strategy: There are definitely weaknesses to be exploited with Seattle’s style of play. They stay very narrow in the backfield and give strikers a bit too much time on the ball, especially on the counter. This was most notable in the three match losing streak that Seattle had going into their latest win against D.C.

Against Portland all four goals came from the Timber’s breaking at speed and finishing from distance. It wasn’t exactly ball watching but each of the four goals could be attributed to the defenders just being a step off of the match’s pace. This could prove to be an exploitable area if David Accam is deemed fit to play Saturday.

In the match against Philadelphia there was one particularly telling chance that came early in the second half. Cristian Maidana was on a breakaway and found himself just outside the box. If you freeze frame the play, all four of Seattle’s defenders and the DM, Michael Azira crash in on him and leave the flanks completely exposed (all five of them are literally within a 10 yard radius of one another and Maidana). With such cover you would expect Maidana to be easily closed down but he manages to get a shot off anyway that just narrowly misses the top corner and nestles into the side netting. The eventual game winning goal by Philly came off of a mediocre ball floated into the box and CJ Sapong sneaking in between the center backs to head it home. Again, sloppy.

When the Sounders lost 2-0 at home to San Jose the same trends were evident. Sanna Nyassi’s opener was a fantastic strike, but there is no reason for him to have been allowed to make a run without a covering fullback providing pressure. The same goes for the Matias Perez Garcia finish towards the end of the match. With a few nifty moves he made the DM’s and CB’s look like training cones before he got his shot off. Yes, it was a nice finish that Frei had no chance of stopping, but you cannot allow the opposition to have a shot from fifteen yards out when they’re being “marked” by four players.

Schmid has been justifiably frustrated with his defense and has tinkered with the lineup because of it, starting a different center back pairing in each of Seattle’s last five matches. Granted, some of this was due to injury and international call ups, but something just isn’t clicking in the back for the Sounder’s at the moment. Giving up seven goals in four matches is not something Seattle is used to. Chicago hasn’t been clinical in front of the net this season, but Seattle’s form suggests there will at least be chances to get on the score sheet. If Frank Yallop has done his homework, Fire fans might see Patrick Nyarko, Kennedy Igboananike and David Accam playing their usual style but look for Mike Magee and Harry Shipp to be instructed to make delayed runs into the space created by Seattle’s narrow shape.

Prediction: Let’s face it, even a full strength Chicago side would find it hard to beat a depleted Seattle team… Given that the Fire will have significant absences themselves it would be quite the feat to just notch a point. If Chicago has a good day: Chicago 1-1 Seattle. If Chicago’s league form continues: Chicago 1- 3 Seattle.

Comments

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  • Guys if yallop keeps de Prado on the bench they have a chance. I would start McGee up from and bring in Kennedy for whoever is gassed at the 60 minute mark. Without Dempsey and martins I believe barring an idiot move by our coach we have a chance.

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    In reply to Brokerman:

    It's MAGEE, not McGee.

  • In reply to Eric Kekeis:

    He's been spelling it that way for years. Don't expect it to change.

  • In reply to Modibo:

    Modibo. I speak 6 languages sometimes my spelling of names is not correct. Sorry

  • In reply to Brokerman:

    Brokerman, I speak English, French, German, Wolof, Bamanankan, and some Spanish, Italian, Minianka, Arabic, and Swahili.

    I can still spell Mike Magee's last name because I know how to read in English, which you also know how to do because you are a regular contributor to the comments on this blog.

    And I can also spell names, words, etc in all those languages. Sorry.

    I did not call you out on that, talk to Erik Kekeis.

  • In reply to Eric Kekeis:

    Guy thank the lord I have a personal secretary to correct my bad spelling.

  • I know the usual suspects will disagree, but I think the Fire will make a run at the playoffs before all is said and done this season.

  • In reply to Charles Jogues:

    I wish I had the same positivity. He's going to have to make a run this month. The Fire play four games against three teams that are better than them. He's going to have to probably win 3 of them to spur a run at the playoffs. At least 2 wins will keep the Fire on the very very outside. Anything less and the hole will be far too deep to escape.

  • who cares? we're talking about soccer right? this is the most boring sport ever made. i'd rather watch paint dry than this. nobody in chicago cares about this. NOBODY.

  • In reply to torpel:

    Hahaha

  • In reply to torpel:

    Yet you cared enough to post a reply. No one forces you to watch soccer, read about soccer, or post stupid and moronic comments on soccer blogs.

  • In reply to StaryByk3:

    Oh, but you are totally wrong about that, StaryByk3! His own sorry disfunctional self overwhelmingly forces him to post that stupid nonsense. :)

  • In reply to torpel:

    Then go watch it dry. Who's stopping you.

  • In reply to torpel:

    I mean, I'm in Chicago and I care. Soooooo, you're wrong.

  • There are very few people around the league who expect Chicago to make anything of this season at this point and most are marking Chicago games as wins on their scoresheets already. It's totally justified given their record, but I'm not sure if they're aware of Nyarko and Magee coming back, and Accam being out for the past few games. I only hope that we can get some of these guys playing together and clicking soon. If they do, they might create some surprises. Still, it's very hard to be optimistic.

  • Too bad we don't play counter-attacking soccer.

    3-1 to Seattle. Goal by Magee/Shipp/Accam.

    The winless drought against them continues...

    Weekend picks:
    sj-hou tie
    phi-por por
    nyrb-ne nyrb
    orl-dal orl
    chi-sea sea
    col-rsl rsl
    nyrb-tor tor
    van-kc tie

    68-112

  • In reply to BrianC.:

    Footnote: scoreline is 2-1 Seattle if our defensive line shows cohesion.

    But I agree with you Modibo. Optimism is so rare these days, you can't even buy it.

  • Do Prado has skills. He is just allowed by the coaching staff to attempt to use them in all the wrong areas. Do Prado is a perfect example of why Yallop is not a good manager. Do Prado wanders all over the place, leaves the team without an outlet pass and gives the opposition ample ability to press high putting pressure on an otherwise incoherent defensive back four. Keep Do Prado in the locker room. Let Stephens play before Do Prado and the Fire might look like they know what they are doing.

  • What's the deal with MLS scheduling matches directly opposite Gold Cup fixtures?

    Its bad enough that MLS play will be degraded without North American internationals [although I guess this is a plus for the Fire's chances since we don't have any CONCACAF internationals to lose!].

    But why not at least schedule the games during the day? I know hot weather can be an issue, but still.

  • In reply to Roti2000:

    MLS has no regard for the FIFA calendar.

  • In reply to Roti2000:

    Joevin Jones?

  • In reply to jimmyblackcloud:

    http://www.chicago-fire.com/news/2015/07/joevin-jones-stars-soca-warriors-gold-cup-opener

    Jones' team beating Papa's team is the closest we get to a win over anything Seattle-related this year.

  • In reply to BrianC.:

    Oops! Methinks you are happily wrong!

  • In reply to jimmyblackcloud:

    Ok, I forgot about him. I have refused since April to watch a Fire game until they reach the playoffs or the current ownership sells the team, so forgive the lapse.

  • In reply to Roti2000:

    Sounds like you are cutting off your nose to directory face.

    Fans who only watch when teams are winning are not really fans, but rather bandwagon jumpers.

    I enjoy the soccer come what may.

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    I don't want to imagine losing at home to Seattle with Chad Barrett getting the game winner, although I'm sure that's how things will play out given how this season has played out so far.

    What is Accam's status as of now? If Accam, Nyarko, Magee, Shipp, & Iggy are out there, then we have a chance. Speed and counter as Marty highlighted are needed.

  • In reply to Eric Kekeis:

    Accam probably won't start but may be in the 18.

  • Weekend picks

    San Jose over Houston
    Portland over Philadelphia
    New York RB over New England
    FC Dallas over Orlando City
    Montreal and Columbus draw
    Chicago over Seattle
    Colorado over Real Salt Lake
    Toronto over New York City
    Vancouver over Sporting KC

    80-99

  • Yet another underwhelming striker rumor....

    http://www.thesun.ie/irishsol/homepage/sport/irishfootball/6536104/Chicago-in-the-hunt-for-Noel.html

  • Happy to see them get a win they truly earned. Since Seattle was so short handed this was the best chance to beat them.

    Shipp has an incredible touch and needs to touch the ball all the time. I thought Magee and Nyarko looked really good for the long layoff, and that changes the whole tenor of the team.

    The less said about Iggy the better. Suffice to say that ihe not a dp level player. Ok, I'll say it: he was god awful. Jones almost as bad, and stop clearing the dang ball to the middle of the 18 yard box.

    Do Prado deserves some slack from everyone cause he made things happen. A real dp would have controlled that pass from Shipp.

    How refreshing to see a Chicago Fire play take an opportunity and accurately nail a ball into the goal. Great pass to him. Way to go grab a win late in game.

    Nice that Quincy gone so he wasn't an option off the bench.

  • Fire scored coverage on 10 pm local news tonight for their big win!

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