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April 28, 2012 at 9:27 AM

Sounders FC vs. Chicago Fire, preview and prediction

Chicago Fire Logo.jpgSounders FC (3-1-1) vs. Chicago Fire (2-1-2)

Saturday, April 28, 5:30 p.m., Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Ill.

TV/radio: KONG-TV 6/16, 97.3 KIRO-FM (Ross Fletcher, Kasey Keller)

Spanish radio: La Gran D 99.3 FM

Referee: Michael Kennedy

KEY FIRE PLAYERS

F Dominic Oduro — The 26-year-old Ghanaian is one of the fastest guys in the league. And in the past season or so, he’s turned himself a reliable scorer with 15 goals since the start of 2011. So far this season he’s got three of Chicago’s six goals and the Sounders will do their utmost to make sure he doesn’t get behind them.

D Arne Friedrich — The German veteran has played at a high level internationally (82 caps, two FIFA World Cups, two Euro championships) and on the club side (several seasons in the Bundesliga). He’s got just two MLS games under his belt and we’ll see if he can help settle a back line that has just one shutout in five games.

M Pavel Pardo — More of a deep-lying center midfielder behind the advanced Sebastian Grazzini. The 35-year-old Mexican, like Friedrich, has played in lots of big international tournaments including World Cups, Gold Cups, Confederations Cup and Copa Americas. Played for Stuttgart in the Bundesliga from 2006-09.

KEY MATCHUPS

Osvaldo Alonso vs. Grazzini — In the Argentine, the Fire have a true No. 10; he sits behind the forwards as an attacking/playmaking midfielder. There he’s sure to run into Seattle’s defensive stalwart, who was recently rated the top field general in the league by the MLSsoccer.com guys. These guys don’t collect all the stats, but their influence in the play will be huge.

Mauro Rosales vs. Gonzalo Segares — The Sounders’ captain is back. He got through the past couple weeks of practice and is expected to return after missing four games with the sprained knee. The Seattle offense has struggled without him, but the Costa Rican left back won’t make things easy. Will the ref allow things to get physical?

Domination vs. motivation — Chicago is 0-3-3 against the Sounders in MLS, not to mention another defeat in the final of the 2011 U.S. Open Cup at CenturyLink Field. The Fire were once the kings of the Open Cup and the standard for greatness by an expansion team. I think they’ll be eager to get one against the guys in Rave green.

PREDICTION

It’s not often the Sounders get 14 days in between games. The past couple times they had MLS byes, by my count, there were midweek U.S. Open Cup games to keep them occupied.

Rested and with a couple guys coming back from injury, it’ll be interesting to see how Seattle looks in its second road game of the year. Will the time off plus a new-look lineup be a positive? Or will they need more time to get sharp?

Chicago is a talented team that has all the pieces to make the playoffs and potentially become a contender in the East, so previous history in the rivalry doesn’t much apply in my opinion. I see this one playing evenly…

Sounders FC 1, Chicago Fire 1

SEA — Eddie Johnson (Fredy Montero) 50′

CHI — Patrick Nyarko (Logan Pause) 59′

* * *

How do you see this one playing out?

COMMENTS

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