Friday, April 8, 2011
Fire face true test at Seattle
By Charlie Corr
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- The Chicago Fire have lived up to their first two MLS challenges this season, but now the team heads out to the league's buzzing Northwest corridor for two matches over a six-day span.
The Fire face Seattle Sounders FC on Saturday at the notoriously decibel-shaking Qwest Field, then stay on the west coast to take on the expansion Portland Timbers next Thursday. Chicago is off to a 1-0-1 start to the season, while Seattle is itching for its first victory with a 0-2-2 record.
"They're still looking for their first win, so our motivations are different," Fire midfielder and defender Gonzalo Segares said. "We've got to take advantage and go over there and have two good games and get some points."
Chicago has to feel confident coming off a 2-1 victory over 2010 MLS champion Colorado Rapids on March 30 in its Lamar Hunt U.S. Open qualifier match, preceded by a 3-2 home opener win against Sporting Kansas City on March 26.
The Fire travel into the largest MLS fan base in Seattle, where the Sounders bring in crowds in excess of 36,000 per game. Chicago also has never won against Seattle, posting a 0-2-2 record since the Sounders' MLS debut in 2009.
"This will be one of the first real tests for this team," Segares said. "We've definitely got to be prepared for that. Mentally and physically, we've got to be ready."
The Fire are without central defender Josip Mikulic, who injured his quad and missed Chicago's match against the Rapids last week. Yamith Cuesta started against Colorado and was later subbed out by Dasan Robinson about 15 minutes into the second half. Both players figure to be the most likely fill-in option for Mikulic.
It is unknown if Sounders striker Fredy Montero is good to go for this match. Montero missed Seattle's 2-2 draw against the San Jose Earthquakes last Saturday, undergoing wrist surgery earlier that week. Goals have been hard to come by for the Sounders in the early going, with the team netting only three tallies in its four matches, including two shutout losses to open its season.
Chicago, on the other hand, has seen its Uruguayan forward duo of Diego Chaves and Gaston Puerari net three of the team's four goals in two league matches.
The Sounders defeated the Fire both times last season, highlighted by Montero's two-goal effort at Qwest to overcome a first-half deficit en route to a 2-1 Seattle win on Aug. 28.
The two sides met up during the preseason in Bradenton, Fla. Chicago and Seattle played through a scoreless 90 minutes, but then tacked on an extra 30 minutes of work. Seattle eventually earned a 1-0 win with a 120th-minute goal from trialist Servando Carrasco.