Sep 5, 2013, 8:30 PM EDT
• The Chicago Fire is 0-4-3 all-time in Major League Soccer matches against Seattle Sounders FC, including a 0-2-1 record in the Northwest.
• The Sounders are 7-1-3 at home this season, while the Fire is 2-6-3 on the road.
• Chicago’s Joel Lindpere (Estonia) and Arévalo Ríos (Uruguay) and Seattle’s Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson (United States) will be on international duty. Meanwhile, Seattle’s Brad Evans and Obafemi Martins are fighting through injuries.
The upstart Seattle Sounders FC, in the quest for Major League Soccer’s Supporters’ Shield with six wins in seven games, hosts the Chicago Fire on Saturday (10 p.m. ET on NBCSN). Chicago is just two points behind the playoff field in the Eastern Conference after conceding a 90th-minute goal to the Houston Dynamo last week in a disappointing 1-1 tie.
Meanwhile, Seattle went away to Columbus last Saturday, and despite losing defender Leo González to a seventh-minute red card, the Sounders beat the Crew 1-0. Then on Wednesday, they found another narrow 1-0 win, at home over Chivas USA.
Seattle is starting to look like a team that can get a result every time it steps on the field, in stark contrast to earlier in the season, when it would seemingly alternate between dominant 4-0 and 4-2 wins over the San Jose Earthquakes and FC Dallas and 4-0 and 2-0 losses to the Los Angeles Galaxy and Real Salt Lake.
Despite Obafemi Martins missing Wednesday due to injury and Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson on international duty, the Sounders got a solid showing from goal-scorer Lamar Neagle (pictured). It was the Sounders’ 10th straight match unbeaten at home, a run that started after a surprising opening-day 1-0 loss to the Montreal Impact.
With its 2013 road woes, Chicago will likely find it difficult to snap the streak. The last time the Fire won on the road before Aug. 3 at Philadelphia Union was June 22 at Columbus, and those are the only two away wins on the season for Chicago.
In a long MLS season, experienced teams and coaches often put their emphasis on peaking at the right times. The Houston Dynamo made a late push into the 2012 playoffs and ended up making it to the MLS Cup final. The Los Angeles Galaxy won the competition after making it as a No. 4 seed in the West.
Both Chicago and Seattle are heating up, but one is hotter than the other. A Chicago win on Saturday would even the situation out a bit, but Seattle still has two games in hand on the first-place RSL in the West.
What they’re saying
Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid on what he expects out of the Fire: “They’re a team that is in desperate need for points. They want to stay in the hunt in the East. So for them, it’s a very important game. I think it’s a team that’s going to play pretty tight to the vest in terms of opening themselves up defensively. … You have to be sharp and alert and be prepared for a lot of place changing [among players].”
Seattle is on a roll, especially at home, and Chicago is still struggling to find consistent results on the road. Even though the Sounders are missing a few national team players, Chicago will likely feel its two losses more, and Seattle has enough quality and depth to step up and beat the Fire at home.
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