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September 7, 2013 at 11:24 AM

Sounders FC vs. Chicago Fire, preview and prediction

Chicago Fire LogoSounders FC (13-8-4) vs. Chicago Fire (10-10-5)
Saturday, Sept. 7, 7 p.m., CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.
National TV: NBC Sports Network (John Strong, Robbie Earle)
Local radio: KIRO 97.3 FM (Ross Fletcher, Kasey Keller)
Spanish radio: La Gran D 99.3 FM
Referee: Hilario Grajeda

KEY FIRE PLAYERS

F Mike Magee — A familiar Galaxy foe faces the Sounders for the first time with his new team, though the production has been much the same. He had six goals in 10 games with L.A. before heading to the Fire in exchange for the rights to Robbie Rogers. He has gone on to add eight goals and three assists in 13 games for Chicago (Rogers, you might notice, has no goals and one assist in nine games). Might have actually been by MVP favorite at one point until a recent drop.

D Austin Berry — I wonder how many MLS fans around the league remember he won Rookie of the Year in 2012. The center back out of Louisville earned his first start on May 5 last season (actually scored in that game) and has played every single minute since. He’s got four goals and two assists in about a year and a half, which is a bonus. His task stands to change quite a bit depending on the status of Obafemi Martins.

M Jeff Larentowicz — The Sounders aren’t the only team with international call-up this week as the Fire lost midfielders Joel Lindpere (Estonia) and Arevalo Rios (Uruguay). Coach Frank Klopas was a bit guarded when it comes to replacement options, but Larentowicz is likely to assume a leading role in the middle. It won’t be too big for him. When the Rapids when on their MLS Cup run in 2010, The Ginger Ninja was one of the stars.

KEY MATCHUPS

Mauro Rosales vs. Gonzalo Segares — This has been a matchup to watch the past few years between these two teams, and mainly because Segares always knocks Rosales around. This picture says it all, I feel. The Sounders DP has had a midseason surge in production with a goal and four assists in his past seven games — a couple of those helpers on free kicks. Will that keep up if things get physical? Segares isn’t quite on top pace for fouls by his standard, but he does have five yellow cards this season.

Chris Rolfe vs. Jhon Kennedy Hurtado — Seattle coach Sigi Schmid has been talking about the Fire forwards quite a bit the past couple days. The Bash Brothers they are not, Schmid said, as Magee and Rolfe aren’t physical specimens but rather move around a lot, whether it’s checking back to the ball or place-changing. Hurtado is often described as the Sounders’ fastest center-back, and Schmid has already indicated he’s likely be back in the lineup to earn his 100th MLS appearance.

Tired and shorthanded vs. rested — The Sounders are already down a number of players due to international duty and injury, but now they’re playing after just two days rest. That will cause an ever deeper dig into the team’s depth. Chicago on the other hand has some travel but didn’t have a midweek game, so the visitors should be ready to go. Also, the team is 8-3-4 since Magee showed up. The Sounders are 9-5-1 since then, same amount of points, so the Fire will be no slouch.

PREDICTION

A fair amount has been going Seattle’s way of late. Three wins, all by 1-0 scores, that’s never happened before in team history. Not to mention Mark Geiger favorable whistle after Michael Gspurning fumbled the ball at the end of the Chivas USA game.

Speaking of history, it’s pretty one-sided in this series. Chicago is the only MLS team that hasn’t beaten the Sounders in any competition (0-4-3 regular season, 0-1 U.S. Open Cup). So how does this one play out?

I think luck balances out a bit, but I still think Seattle continues its unbeaten streak against the Fire and at home.

Sounders FC 1, Chicago Fire 1

CHI — Mike Magee (pk) 34′
SEA — Osvaldo Alonso (un) 72′

*     *     *

What do you think? How do you see this one playing out?

| More in Preview and prediction

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