Today, the game features the best road team visiting the 2nd best home team. Chicago is dealing with some extensive losses (McBride, Pause, Soumare, Segares) while Seattle only deals with the loss of Brad Evans.
While Fire fans have confidence from their home draw against Seattle early in the season, let us remember that good teams win at home and draw on the road. That is the standard for today in Sounders FC's pursuit of the three points and continuing pressure on the Houston Dynamo.
Focus on two things as you watch the game
1- The Interchange. This may be tough, as it is designed to confuse, but see which of the forwards and wingers in Rave Green are in which channels, who is left and right. While this normally confuses solid defenses the Fire are losing three of their starting six in that unit (keeper, back four, CDM). Follow how Montero, Jaqua, Ljungberg, Zakuani and Le Toux swap their roles and what angles they come at Fire keeper Busch.
The Fire give up a lot of shots and rode Busch last year. This year they are doing the same, giving up the 5th most in the league, and having an average performance this year by Busch. They are vulnerable, and Seattle's typical peppering of the pipes has to continue.
2 - The Drifter. Blanco isn't an athlete. He isn't fast, nor strong. He just has serious footskills, extraordinary vision and experience. He floats around the pitch. Without McBride he will be even more of a funnel for their offense. How Sigi and club defend a player that has no real position will be a key in this match. Man marking would mean that Alonso or Hurtado would wind up well out of position as Blanco drifts wide left or right. A zone marking system would require intense communication and depending on the Chicago offense and spacing could force a Sounder to defend two men at the same time.
He's tied for #1 in assists, and in this match it will likely be his vision that determines how hard Keller must work today. The Mexican national legend has a penchant for performance in big games, and today is a fairly big regular season match - ESPN/ESPN desportes all around the nation. Not the duece, but the mothership.
Montero comes in to today with a 5 match active scoring streak. Jaqua and Ljungberg both have 2 match streaks with assists.
This should be a less physical match, as the Fire are 15th in Fouls Committed and Seattle is 8th. The good news is that the Rave Green are also falling in the Cautions ranking.
Fire are a last 15 minute of half team with nearly all of their scoring coming in the last 15 of each half (7 goals at end of 1st half, 9 at end of second). Sounders tend to score in the 30 minutes prior to half and the first 15 of the second. No matter the score in the first 75, this will still be a tight game.