SEATTLE, WASHINGTON (June 22, 2018) – The international break is over in Major League Soccer.
Teams have hit the training pitch this week, gearing up for the next battle. For the Seattle Sounders FC, the next test includes a home match against the Chicago Fire. The Fire are coached by former Serbian international Veljko Paunovic.
Paunovic has been with the Fire since 2015.
Preview: Seattle Sounders yearning for points against Chicago Fire
A year later, he was joined in the head coaching world by Brian Schmetzer. Schmetzer notably took over halfway through the season to replace Sigi Schmid — who now calls the LA Galaxy home — and led the team to the MLS Cup championship. Seattle lifted the trophy over Toronto and the next year came close to repeating.
However, this year’s story is different.
Seattle is attempting to recover from a slow start to the season. Currently, the Sounders sit in 10th place in the MLS Western Conference, slightly ahead of the San Jose Earthquakes and Colorado Rapids.
On the other side, the Chicago Fire are close to a playoff spot, sitting in seventh place. Along with the Fire, Orlando City SC — the club in sixth place — sits with 19 points.
“Right now, we have thoughts about them, but the number one thing is to get our team right,” Schmetzer said during his weekly presser. “A lot of the focus will be on what we will do to try and make them change for us.”
Seattle Sounders FC vs. Chicago Fire
2018 MLS Regular Season
June 13, 2018 – 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET
What to Watch For
Pride Night & Potential New Sounder?
The Seattle Sounders are continuing the tradition of having a Pride Night at CenturyLink Field.
Major League Soccer — and the National Women’s Soccer League — have come together to make soccer inclusive for everyone. This month, Pride Month, many players, coaches and staff members have worn shirts saying “Equality” or “Soccer Is For All.”
Seattle will wear rainbow numbers on their jersey. It is not certain if the Fire will do so as well.
All of the information for Sounders Pride can be found by clicking here.
Meanwhile, Seattle could add a World Cup talent to the roster during the summer transfer window. Rumors have swirled of Seattle signing striker Raul Ruidiaz.
Currently, Ruidiaz is featuring for Peru in the World Cup. However, his tournament will be short, as Peru will not be advancing to the knockout stage with two losses against Denmark and France.
Despite Ruidiaz current club Monarcas Morelia, in Mexico’s Liga MX, tweeting that Ruidiaz will leave the club for Seattle, Schmetzer said he doesn’t have “any definitive answer” for the transfer.
“We like being associated with players of that quality,” Schmetzer said. “But I have nothing official to give.”
Así como brillaste aquí, brillarás en la ciudad Esmeralda 🙌🏻@raulruidiazm se convierte en el nuevo jugador franquicia de @SoundersFC, ¡tu huella quedará marcada en nuestra historia! pic.twitter.com/c5tbYwJmmz
— Monarcas Morelia (@FuerzaMonarca) June 14, 2018
The Injury Report
Seattle Sounders FC
Joining Jordan Morris on the injury list is still Handwalla Bwana. The midfielder suffered a right midfoot sprain about a month ago.
Meanwhile, two more names have joined the list. Defender Kelvin Leerdam is ruled out with a right hamstring strain. Suffering the same injury is forward Felix Chenkam. Only one player is listed as questionable: Lamar Neagle is currently recovering from a left groin strain.
“They’re out on the field, they’re getting back out on the field,” Schmetzer said of Leerdman and Chenkam. “They’re still a ways away. Will [Bruin] trained in full today. He’ll be fine for the weekend.”
Despite the break, and watching World Cup soccer, Schmetzer said the team is ready to get back on the pitch.
“The loss [against the New York Red Bulls] still stings and where we find ourselves stings,” Schmetzer said. “It’s nice to get back on the field and train for Saturday.”
The Chicago Fire have a lengthy injury list as well.
Djordje Mihailovic tore his right ACL and had surgery in November 2017. He is still out and recovering. During that same time, forward Michael de Leeuw suffered a right ACL injury and underwent surgery.
Meanwhile, defender Matt Polster is out at least another four months with an MCL injury. Also listed as out are goalkeeper Patrick McLain (hamstring injury) and defender Drew Conner (right calf injury).
— Chicago Fire (@ChicagoFire) June 22, 2018
Last Meeting: May 13, 2017
Last year, the two sides met up a month ahead of time at Toyota Park.
Seattle’s lone goal in the 4-1 loss was scored by Clint Dempsey. The veteran forward is still looking for his first goal of the MLS season. He has appeared in nine games, starting seven, this year.
Meanwhile, Nemanja Nikolic — who scored two goals in the victory last year — has scored six times this season. He has started 14 out of 15 matches for the Fire, totaling 1,149 minutes.
Prediction: Seattle 2, Chicago Fire 0
It’s been a while since Stefan Frei has had a clean sheet.
Kim Kee-Hee and Chad Marshall are doing well for partners that don’t speak the same language. While Kim, a native of South Korea, is still learning English, their partnership has been solid.
Kim has even given Schmetzer a lot to think about for when Román Torres returns to Seattle from the World Cup.
Seattle normally boasts plenty of fans in the CenturyLink Field seats. However, Pride Night will certainly bring more fans out to the match. Chicago better bring some fans along too, because it might be a bumpy ride.
— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) June 22, 2018
Equality is a team sport.
— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) June 22, 2018