Winless on the road, the Chicago Fire return home to host the reigning MLS Cup champion Seattle Sounders FC. The Fire gathered only one point from a possible nine during a continent-spanning three week period. The Men In Red will be seeking just their second ever MLS victory over Seattle Saturday. The ESPN 2 broadcasted game will be just the 11th league meeting between the two teams. The sputtering champions are winless in their last two and have an injured defense. Bastian Schweinsteiger and his Fire teammates now head into a stretch of four games in twelve days.
Chicago Fire Face Defending MLS Cup Champions After Difficult Road Swing
Paunovic Locating His Best XI
Fire Head Coach Veljko Paunovic made two big changes to the starting XI last weekend in LA. The additions of Drew Connor at right back and Matt Lampson in goal were an improvement but the team only earned a draw. Both players seemingly performed well enough to remain in the Fire’s starting lineup. The second year Fire boss saw his team give up two second half goals off corner kicks to earn only a draw in a game in which they led 2-0 at halftime. Paunovic may have to rotate his squad in the games to come but will likely stick with the same XI as in L.A. against the Sounders. The Fire head coach said his players were “recovered and fresh” in preparation for Seattle. The frustrated Fire should be highly motivated to impress on their return home and in front of the national TV cameras.
Seattle’s Broken Back
Seattle has had to patch together their back line in the early goings of the season. The Sounders currently have three defenders on the injured list which includes starters Chad Marshall and Oniel Fisher. Seattle did get a fitness boost however as big bodied Panamanian defender Roman Torres returned to the backline last week. Seattle are similar to the Fire in that the defense is likely the weakest area of an otherwise talented team. Both teams have spent a majority of their payroll on the positions further up the field.
The Sounders also feature two former Men In Red. Both Chicago homegrown midfielder Harry Shipp and exciting left back Joevin Jones were dealt away from Chicago before the 2016 season. Jones featured for the Sounders on 33 occasions in 2016 while Shipp is in his first year as a Sounder having appearing in eight games and starting in five.
Burning Fast and Often
Saturday night’s match against Seattle is the first in a run of four games in 12 days. Fortunately for the Fire, three out of the four upcoming games will be at Toyota Park. The Fire need to secure all of their points at home to remain competitive as their road record has yet to improve. Chicago has only recorded two points away from home thus far in 2017. The Fire will welcome a struggling Colorado Rapids side midweek before they pay a visit to D.C. United on Saturday May 20th. Earning three points against the champions from the northwest will be a big step to putting the recent road trip disappointments into the rearview mirror. A home loss, however, will only add more concerns to a currently frustrated and expensive team. With a quarter of the season gone, moral victories will do little to for the rekindled Fire.