For the second match in a row, the Seattle Sounders will look to pick up points away from Lumen Field. The three points should be well in their grasp against a struggling Chicago Fire team. Here are five things to know about the match:
A familiar face
If you’ve been following the Sounders organization for a while, the name Ezra Hendrickson might ring a bell. The current Chicago Fire head coach was an assistant coach for the Sounders from 2009-14 under Sigi Schmid. In 2015, he transitioned into a role with Sounders FC 2 as their head coach for two years. This is Ezra’s first season as a head coach in MLS, and it hasn’t gone particularly well for his team. Chicago sit 12th in the East, so now is around the time to begin making a late push for the playoffs.
The past week has been a tough one for the Sounders and their fans to cope with. A 3-0 defeat at home to Portland and a disappointing performance in Nashville has left them with zero points from a possible six and a spot in the table right outside a playoff position. Luckily, the season is far from over. And an away trip to a struggling Fire side will leave the Sounders liking their odds of hopping on the plane back to Seattle with three points in their pocket. The Sounders could even finish Saturday night as high as 5th in the Western Conference, pending favorable results elsewhere.
Chicago’s teenage trio
Probably the only positive aspect of the Fire throughout the past few years has been their youth development. Djordje Mihailovic is a stand-out name, although he isn’t with the club anymore. Still with the club and consistently producing for the senior team, though, is a trio of impressive teenagers by the names of Brian Gutierrez (19), Jhon Duran (18), and Gabriel “GAGA” Slonina. Jhon Duran scored a brace in his previous match, giving the Fire a 2-0 win over a struggling Toronto FC team and earning himself a player of the week nomination. Also in the news this week, Slonina has reportedly reached a transfer/loan-back agreement with European powerhouse Chelsea FC for a reported base fee of around $10 million + add-ons. A great deal for all parties involved.
Sounders' positive record against the East
It has been a season of ups and downs for the Sounders thus far. They hit an all-time high at the beginning of May when they won the Concacaf Champions League, but have struggled in quite a few regular season matches. Understandable in some cases, and frustrating in others. One favorable note for the Sounders in 2022 has been their record against Eastern conference MLS teams. In all competitions, Seattle are 3-2-1 against the East, and unbeaten on the road.
Minimal rotation expected
To conclude their final of two consecutive away matches, we expect the Sounders to start pretty close to their best team available. Xavi Arreaga should be fully fit and ready to start alongside Yeimar in the center of defense. Stefan Frei is still unavailable due to health and safety protocols, so Stefan Cleveland should get the nod. Danny Leyva is also expected to start following his impressive ~30 minute+ cameo, along with Leo Chu and Will Bruin for Fredy Montero and Jordan Morris. Raul Ruidiaz is still unavailable due to a hamstring injury.